With the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics just around the corner, all sorts of issues are currently unanswered: international politics, public health, and yes, even sports.
Here’s what we know so far.
When will the Beijing Olympics be held?
The opening ceremony is scheduled for Friday, February 4, but there will be some preliminaries in the days before that. The closing ceremony is scheduled for Sunday, February 20. In total there will be 19 days of competition covering 15 sports.
The Paralympic Games will also be held in Beijing, scheduled for March 4-13 this year.
Is it possible that the Olympics will be postponed or even cancelled due to the pandemic?
Anything is possible, but the International Olympic Committee and Beijing Olympic organizers are keen to stress that the Games will go ahead as planned. In early December, senior Olympic official Juan Antonio Samaranch was blunt when asked if he could imagine a situation in which the Games would be forced to be postponed. “The answer is no,” he said. “In the world of Covid-19, you have to be flexible and you have to be able to adapt quickly to changing conditions. It can be done in Beijing.”
How will they deal with the coronavirus?
The protocols will be similar to those of last summer’s Tokyo Olympics, but more stringent. Organisers are creating what they call a “closed loop system” — also known as a “bubble” — in which thousands of athletes, coaches, team officials, Olympic staff, contractors, volunteers And journalists will be cut off from the outside world throughout the Olympics. Competition venues, hotels and other athlete residences, media facilities and transportation networks are all within the “bubble.” No one else went in; no one came out.
Everyone participating in the Olympics will be required to be vaccinated. (There is the option of a medical waiver, but anyone who wants one will have to quarantine for 21 days before the game, which is unrealistic.) Once there, everyone will be tested for Covid-19 daily.
Wasn’t the 2008 Summer Olympics held in Beijing? Why is China hosting another Olympics?
Many countries initially applied to host the 2022 Olympics. But over time, Norway, Sweden, Poland, Ukraine, Switzerland, Germany and other countries withdrew one after another. The reasons many countries have pulled out are the high cost of hosting the Olympics and the lack of domestic popular support.
In the end, only two bidders, China and Kazakhstan, remained. Beijing won by four votes over its opponent. The organizer’s selection process was deemed such a disaster that the IOC later scrapped it. The IOC now chooses the host city through a closed-door process.
Will there be a country boycotting the Olympics?
China’s record on human rights — including the abuse of Uighur Muslims in the country’s Xinjiang region and the crackdown on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong — has led activists around the world to call on countries and sponsors to boycott the Beijing Olympics.
The boycott has intensified since last November when Chinese tennis player and three-time Olympian Peng Shuai disappeared from public life after accusing a former senior government official of sexually assaulting her.
However, it is highly unlikely that any country will directly boycott the Beijing Olympics, which means refusing to send its athletes to the competition. Instead, several countries, including the United States, Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada, have declared a “diplomatic boycott” of the Olympics, meaning their government officials will not participate in any ceremony or event.
White House press secretary Jean Sackey said of the decision: “We’re not going to be part of the Olympic hype.”
What if athletes protest during the Olympics about human rights or something?
“It’s a hypothetical question,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said when asked about it in early December, noting that athletes can express personal views on social media and in interviews during events.
The IOC relaxed its rules on protests and expressing political views ahead of last summer’s Tokyo Olympics, allowing athletes to make symbolic gestures — such as raising a fist or taking a knee — on the field before games. (Protests at the awards ceremony are still banned.)
But it remains to be seen what happens if athletes explicitly criticize the Chinese government during the Olympics. “I think we have to wait for the instance,” Adams said.
Will spectators be allowed to watch the game live?
Likely to be allowed, but only in limited numbers. While spectators were barred from the Tokyo venue last summer, organizers hope to allow at least some spectators from China to the event in Beijing. Chinese officials have instituted strict rules to try to limit the spread of the virus, including allowing audience members to applaud but not shout.
Visitors from abroad are not allowed to enter.
Will National Hockey League (NHL) players play?
Will not. That’s the opposite of a plan announced in September that allowed stars to travel to Beijing for three weeks while the league was suspended.
But the league and the players union opted out of the Winter Olympics amid growing concerns about the Omicron variant, when they could use the period in February to make up for postponed NHL games.