Beijing is set to become the first city to host both editions of the Olympics, with the Winter Games set to take place from February 4-20.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed to “spare no effort” to put on a great show. However, the preparation was marred by controversy. The United States and a handful of allies have engaged in a diplomatic human rights boycott, while the omicron variant of the coronavirus tests Beijing’s strict containment measures at the worst possible time.
“The world’s eyes are on China, and China is ready,” Xi said. Indeed, the world will watch not only the action on the ice and the tracks, but also the political drama on the sidelines.
Here are the latest developments:
Tuesday, February 1 (Tokyo time)
11:34 am. Taiwan’s Winter Olympics team will attend the opening and closing ceremonies after being notified by the International Olympic Committee that they are required to participate. On Friday, Taiwan had said the team would not attend, blaming delayed flights and strict anti-COVID-19 rules.
10:25 a.m. The Olympic Torch Relay will kick off on Wednesday on a shorter than usual route that begins at the Olympic Forest Park in Beijing, but only selected members of the public will be on hand to watch the three-day event due to the strict COVID-19 rules.
07:00 The US FBI is warning of possible cyberattacks at the Beijing Winter Games, saying hackers may try to disrupt events and steal or leak “sensitive data”. The US law enforcement agency has also warned athletes to use temporary cellphones to prevent personal information from being stolen from their own devices.
Monday, January 31 (Tokyo time)
9:00 p.m. Two U.S. Democratic lawmakers, Senator Jeff Merkley and Rep. James McGovern, write to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, urging the group to prepare to defend U.S. athletes against possible retaliation from the Chinese government if they choose to speak out against violations rights of China during the Winter Olympics in Beijing.
A Chinese official told reporters in January that any behavior contrary to the Olympic spirit, and “in particular Chinese laws and regulations”, would be punishable.
1:37 p.m. A Chinese figure skating judge suspended for giving preferential marks to his compatriots will serve on a technical jury at the Beijing Winter Olympics, Reuters reports, citing competition records. Huang Feng received a one-year suspension in June 2018 for biasedly judging pair figure skating at the Pyeongchang Olympics that year, according to the agency.
12:54 p.m.. Beijing 2022 organizers are reporting 37 new COVID-19 infections among people linked to the Games, including eight athletes or team officials, according to the event’s official website. Nine positive cases have been detected inside the “closed loop” – in which Olympic participants and staff can move within a bubble but not around the city. On Sunday, organizers reported 34 new infections.
10:05 a.m. Foreign journalists face “unprecedented obstacles” to covering China, according to a new report, as the world’s press descends on the country to cover the Winter Games.
The Foreign Correspondents Club of China (FCCC) said Beijing was blocking and discrediting independent reporting, while scrapping new visas and deporting some members of the press.
“With China pulling out all the stops for the Olympics, the FCCC is troubled by the breakneck speed at which media freedom is declining in China,” the organization said in a survey released Monday.
“China’s approach to foreign journalists is in direct contrast to its own stated policies for foreign media and the Olympic spirit of excellence, friendship and respect.”
Some 99% of journalists in this year’s survey said reporting conditions fell short of what they considered international standards, he added.
Sunday January 30
2:00 p.m. Beijing Olympics organizers say 34 new coronavirus infections have been detected among staff linked to the Games, Reuters reports – around a third of them are athletes and team officials. Twenty-three of the cases were new arrivals, while 11 were already in the “closed loop” – in which Olympics participants and staff can move around in a bubble but not around the city. Under the rules, athletes who test positive and show no symptoms are only released from isolation after testing negative twice, 24 hours apart, according to the report.
Saturday January 29
3:03 p.m. The United States denies a report by Chinese state media that it was trying to disrupt the Games by inciting athletes to make half-hearted efforts in competition and criticizing Beijing. “We were not and are not coordinating a global campaign regarding participation in the Olympics,” a spokesman for the US Embassy told Reuters.
On Friday, China Daily, an English-language newspaper run by the Chinese Communist Party, cited unnamed sources as saying US “anti-China forces” were seeking to maliciously “disrupt and spoil” the Games and politicize the sport.
12:40 p.m. Beijing 2022 organizers are recording a total of 36 new COVID-19 infections among affected personnel, Reuters reports. Nineteen were athletes or team officials who tested positive upon arrival on Friday.
9:40 a.m. Human rights advocates have urged athletes and sponsors to speak out during the Beijing Games, pointing to the tense political atmosphere. Activists representing Chinese dissidents and Uyghur and Tibetan minorities spoke at an online press conference hosted by Human Rights Watch on Friday, according to The Associated Press.
“Your silence is their strength,” said Lhadon Tethong, director of the Tibet Action Institute, calling on athletes in the West and beyond to take a stand against what activists – and some governments – have called “genocide”. “I personally believe that you should use your platform and your privilege and this historic opportunity. You must speak out against the wave of genocide,” she said.
China denies all allegations of abuse and has warned against political statements at the Games. “Any behavior or speech contrary to the Olympic spirit, especially Chinese laws and regulations, is also subject to certain penalties,” Yang Shu, deputy director general of the Beijing 2022 international relations department, said earlier this month. this.
2h20 The Canadian Olympic Committee says five members of its 246-person Olympic delegation have been placed under Beijing’s COVID-19 protocols, Reuters reports.
1h15 The 15-athlete Taiwanese team, competing under the name “Chinese Taipei”, will not participate in the opening or closing ceremonies of the Beijing Games. The Taiwanese officials’ announcement comes amid fears Beijing could use the Games to make a statement regarding the status of the self-governing island, which China considers a renegade province.
Friday January 28
3:30 p.m. Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Games and host a welcome banquet for a series of heads of state and other dignitaries, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, King Norodom Sihamoni of Cambodia. and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said. Others expected to attend the opening ceremony include UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and International Olympic Committee chief Thomas Bach, he added.
12:30 p.m. Twelve cases of COVID-19 were detected among Games-related personnel on Thursday, organizers said, according to Reuters. Of the dozen, 10 were new arrivals at the airport, while the rest were found in the ‘closed-loop’ virus bubble of the Olympics.
11:05 a.m.. China will let UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet visit her scandal-hit region of Xinjiang following the conclusion of the Winter Olympics, the South China Morning Post reported, citing unnamed sources. The visit is expected to take place in the first half of the year, the newspaper said.
Rights groups have accused China of human rights abuses against Uyghurs and other minority groups in the far western region, including torture, forced labor and mass detention of around 1 million people.
Beijing, which denies the claims, has insisted Bachelet’s office refrain from issuing a report in the region before hosting the global sports showcase, the Post said.
3h36 All three athletes’ villages are now open – under a strict COVID-19 bubble policy. In addition to observing coronavirus rules, some delegations, including the United States and Canada, have advised their team members not to bring their own mobile devices due to cybersecurity concerns.