BEIJING — From bidding for the Beijing 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Games to the extensive preparations, President Xi Jinping has played a leading role, and has vowed to present a “fantastic, extraordinary and excellent” Games to the world.
With a global vision, Xi wants the Beijing Games to contribute to the Olympic Movement with greater public involvement in winter sports, and to enable the Olympic spirit to ease political tensions and advance the building of a community with a shared future for mankind.
As the Beijing Winter Olympics will open on Friday, Xi, a keen sports fan, will attend the opening ceremony of the eye-catching event in Beijing and join global winter sports fans in enjoying the world-class competitions.
When he attended the opening ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics in Russia eight years ago, he told Rossiya TV, a state-owned Russian television channel, that he loves winter sports.
“I like watching ice hockey games, speed skating, figure skating and freestyle skiing. Hockey is my favorite.”
The coming weeks will show how Xi’s commitment to the country’s bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics is being turned into a reality.
He appeared on television just hours before members of the International Olympic Committee cast their votes on July 31, 2015, and promised a “fantastic, extraordinary and excellent Olympic Winter Games”.
“The 2022 Winter Olympic Games, if held in China, will boost exchanges and mutual understanding between the Chinese and other civilizations of the world, encourage more than 1.3 billion Chinese to engage in winter sports with interest and passion, and give them yet another opportunity to help advance the Olympic Movement and promote the Olympic spirit,” Xi assured the IOC members in a video speech.
The IOC’s decision to award the 2022 Winter Olympics to Beijing makes the Chinese capital the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Games. Beijing impressed the world in 2008, and now it is ready to do so once again.
Ever since then, the president has demonstrated a personal commitment to ensuring the Games’ success, paying numerous visits to the sporting venues and offering his encouragement to China’s athletes.
On Jan 4, the first workday after the New Year holiday, he conducted his fifth inspection of the preparatory work for the Games. He visited the National Speed Skating Oval, the Main Media Center, the athletes’ village, the Games-time Operations Command Center and a winter sports training base in Beijing, learning about concrete measures to ensure the event will be “a complete success”.
During that inspection tour, Xi said that thanks to years of efforts, work on all fronts was ready. “We are fully confident and able to present a fantastic, extraordinary and excellent Olympic Games to the world.”
As was advocated by Xi, all the preparatory work follows the concept of hosting “green, inclusive, open and corruption-free Olympics”, an idea concurring with China’s new development philosophy.
Xi has pointed out on many occasions that sport is an important way to improve people’s health and fulfill their aspirations for a better life. That explains why he has pledged to get more than 300 million Chinese people on skis and skates, and why health has been incorporated into Beijing’s second Olympic journey.
Just as China used the 2008 Summer Olympics to push its economic and social development, Xi also intends to use the 2022 Games as a catalyst to promote sustainable economic growth not only in Beijing, but in areas surrounding the capital. This is in line with the IOC’s Olympic Agenda 2020, which aims to make the Olympic Games fit into the long-term development plan of a city and region.
Chongli was once an extremely poor county in Zhangjiakou, one of the competition zones in Hebei province, with a limited agricultural income. In 2015, 16.8 percent of the 100,000 residents in the county were classed as living below China’s national poverty line.
But this mountainous town, where most of the 2022 Winter Olympics’ snow events will be staged, has been transformed into a skier’s paradise thanks to booming tourism. In 2019, The New York Times named Chongli as one of 52 ski destinations worth visiting.
In May 2019, Chongli was officially lifted out of poverty. Nearly 30,000 of its 126,000 residents are employed by ski resorts or related companies and organizations.
In addition to spurring regional development, Xi has also expressed China’s commitment to upholding the Olympic spirit and making the Beijing Games a bridge of solidarity and cooperation.
On the international stage, Xi has often used diplomatic occasions to promote friendship and cooperation between China and other countries and international organizations through sports.
In June 2018, Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin jointly watched a friendly China-Russia youth ice hockey game in Tianjin, near Beijing, and they exchanged team uniforms and took a group photo with the players in the game. He said that China will continue to expand sports exchanges with Russia, especially in ice hockey, to strengthen bilateral ties.
In a telephone conversation with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Sept 7, Xi called on both countries to firmly support each other in respectively hosting the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022 and the Milan-Cortina Winter Olympics in 2026, and to strengthen their partnership in ice and snow sports and related industries.
With the world still battling challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis, compassion, solidarity and friendship among nations have never been more critical, observers said.
IOC president Thomas Bach has said: “We need this solidarity to be able to address the great challenges of humankind. There is not only the virus but maybe future health challenges. This is about sustainable development in a holistic way.”
The United Nations has long recognized the contribution of sport for development and peace and in spreading the acceptance of sport to promote mutual understanding, friendship, non-discrimination, and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
In this context, delivery of the Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics can again be a beacon of hope, demonstrating the value of unity, resilience and international cooperation in overcoming today’s pandemic, said Siddharth Chatterjee, resident coordinator of the United Nations in China.