The strange Olympic stories from Beijing
The China Letter: February 9, 2022
This week, some short cuts from the Winter Olympics, from the complaints of athletes in various states of isolation to limited freedom of the press, and a series of political controversies surrounding competitors. (More next week!)
COVID-19 in 2022
The pandemic is playing its expected part in Beijing, with protocols seemingly enforced at random and dozens of athletes sent to isolation after testing positive. And yet, China is citing the success of containment measures by allowing more spectators.
Freezing temperatures, being shuffled between isolation facilities and repetitive meals are among the gripes shared by competitors in Beijing. Life in the Olympic Village bubble has some high-tech highlights, but it remains a winter of discontent.
A security guard’s intervention with a Dutch journalist stoked suspicion about how China is trying to manipulate media coverage. The International Olympic Committee claimed his dragging was an isolated incident, but several other examples followed.
Florida congressman Michael Waltz said NBC refused to air his advertisement slamming Olympic sponsors, which also features outspoken NBA star Enes Kanter Freedom. Waltz likens present-day China to the worst genocidal states in history.
China chose cross-country skier Dinigeer Yilamujiang as one of its final torchbearers in the opening ceremony, which was widely seen as a cynical ploy considering the treatment of her fellow Uyghur Muslims. And now she’s vanished from the limelight.
Winning gold in the freeski big air event put more of a spotlight on Eileen Gu, who was born in San Francisco, but joined the Chinese team for the Games. When asked about her citizenship multiple times after the victory, she avoided answering directly.
The tennis star whose disappearance last fall after accusing a senior Chinese official of sexual assault resurfaced at the Olympics with the explanation that it was “an enormous misunderstanding.” Peng Shuai also officially announced her retirement.
A closed steel mill in Beijing was featured in a viral tweet about the backdrop of a big air jump. But the visiting skiers are intrigued by the scenery, even if social media commenters have a different opinion about how it resembles a “hellscape” on TV.
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