#AndrewSingerChina Newsletter Vol. 1, Issue 31
2022 Opening Ceremony (Xinhua/Rex/Shutterstock at www.guardian.com)
The 2022 Winter Olympics are presently underway in and around Beijing. Olympics are always grand spectacles, and these Beijing Winter Games are no exception. This Issue presents selected storylines that have and keep crossing my various news feeds in the lead-up to and now during the Winter Games.
Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games
The Olympic Games involve a heady blend of pageantry, effort, dedication, money, joy, heartache, stress, elation, and pride. The sheer stimulation and variety can be overwhelming. Adding to the mix, the stories of the Summer and Winter Games of the past half century have increasingly been as much about non-sports topics as they are sports related.
The following are several stories currently playing out in real time in Beijing. Some of them have been covered widely in the West, a few not so much. These, and so many others, promise to be discussed, recalled, and debated (or not) long into the future. The stories below are in no specific order and are not anywhere near exhaustive of the myriad narratives out there.
Bing Dwen Dwen, Winter Olympic Mascot
The Olympic Games Mascot, Bing Dwen Dwen, 冰墩墩, is a runaway viral and real-world star. Think Furby, Tickle Me Elmo, and Cabbage Patch Kids, all in their day, wrapped up together and then some. This little panda is in demand and scarce, scarce, scarce. Per the official Olympic website, “‘Bing’ means ice and also symbolises purity and strength, and ‘Dwen Dwen’ represents children. The mascot embodies the strength and willpower of athletes and will help to promote the Olympic spirit.”
Zhangjiakou Ski Venue (Doug Mills, New York times)
Machine-made snow and transcritical CO2 refrigeration system-made ice are the technologies making the mountain and skating venues at the Winter Olympic possible. The snow at the Yanqing and Zhangjiakou event areas north of Beijing is the result of dozens and dozens of miles of new piping and pumps, more than one million cubic meters of water, and many bright yellow snow-making machines. The impact on environment and performance is being debated and is something that all Winter Olympics must now grapple with in our climate changing world. At the same time, more than half of the Olympic ice venues are using groundbreaking ice-making technology developed by Chinese engineers and scientists that promises to help promote “a greener and more self-sufficient world with lower or even zero carbon emission.”
Jin Dynasty Bronze Artifact, Taizicheng (Hebei Provincial Institute
of Cultural Relics and Archaeology)
A Jin Dynasty palace is discovered. As noted above, Zhangjiakou is one of the two main snow event venues for the Olympics. Zhangjiakou is located 180 km northwest of Beijing. The nearby village of Taizicheng is the site of the Olympic Village for the athletes. Taizicheng Village is also in the area where Emperor Wanyan Jing (Zhangzong)(1189-1208) of the Jin Dynasty (1115-1234) built his summer palace approximately 800 years ago. The Taihe Palace was discovered when archaeologists conducted studies on ruins in the area before the Olympic Village was built. As a result, the Olympic Village was shifted east a short distance across a street so as to not disturb the ruins. This is the first Jin Dynasty palace complex that has been excavated.
Benjamin Alexander (Stephen Shelesky, www.olympics.com)
If like me, you are a fan of the movie Cool Runnings, you will enjoy this Cyrus Janssen interview with Benjamin Alexander. A former, world-famous Hong Kong DJ, U.K.-raised Benji did not take up skiing until in his early thirties and is now Jamaica’s first Olympic Alpine Skier.
Zhu Yi (left) and Eileen Gu (right)(www.asamnews.com)
Eileen Gu and Zhu Yi, two young, Chinese-American women, are skiing and skating, respectively, for China and not America. They each made this decision for their own personal and family reasons, yet in today’s day where there is a potential political dimension to almost everything, their choices are being debated, criticized, and applauded. At this time, one of these women is being feted as a darling of Chinese society and the other is being savaged online for ascribed athletic and personal inadequacies. Neither is yet twenty years old.
Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping (Li Tao at Xinhua via AP)
Geopolitics and human rights are front and center and on the sidelines. Several countries announced either partial or complete diplomatic boycotts before the Games began. There are no athletic boycotts. The participation in the torch relay at the Opening Ceremony of both a military commander who was recently involved in a border clash between India and China and a Uyghur athlete on Team China each touched off surprise and controversy. As a result of the former, India announced a diplomatic boycott of the Games. In addition, the President of Russia is attending, and new initiatives of friendship and engagement between Russia and China have been announced during the Games.
Chinese Short-Track Speedskating Team (James Hill, New York Times)
Beijing is the first city to host both the summer and winter Olympics, and China’s first medal of the Games was also the first gold medal awarded in a new Olympic event--mixed-gender, short-track, speedskating team relay.
One Last Photo
Opening ceremony (Maddie Meyer, Getty Images)