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Olympics-Beijing Games burst into life under shadow of COVID and conflict

Stock MarketsFeb 04, 2022 01:11PM ET


Olympics-Beijing Games burst into life under shadow of COVID and conflict
© Reuters. Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Chinese President Eleven Jinping in Beijing, China February 4, 2022. Sputnik/Aleksey Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS


By Tony Munroe, Muyu Xu and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber

BEIJING (Reuters) – Chinese President Eleven Jinping opened a Beijing Winter Olympics on Fri that not only bear the marking of the global coronavirus pandemic but are likewise mixing sport and global politics as few others take since the era of the Common cold War.

The scintillating opening anniversary ended with a member of People’s republic of china’due south Uyghur minority – whose treatment is the focus of international human rights criticism – helping to lite the Olympic cauldron, hours after Xi announced a new strategic alliance with visiting Russian President Vladimir Putin.

3 thousand performers took to a stage comprising eleven,600 sq metres of high-definition LED screens in the famed Bird’s Nest stadium, earlier a crowd thinned out by COVID-19 restrictions.

Dancers poured in waving glowing green stalks to mark the first day of spring on the Chinese calendar, followed by an explosion of white and green fireworks that spelled the word “Spring”.

On a three-dimensional cube resembling a block of ice, lasers carved figures from each of the previous 23 Winter Games. The block was then “broken” by ice hockey players, enabling the Olympic rings to sally, all in white.

The lighting of the stadium cauldron by the last athlete in the torch relay, their identity kept clandestine until the last moment, commonly provides the climax at the end of the Olympic opening ceremony, and this ane proved especially significant.

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Dinigeer Yilamujiang, a 20-year-old cantankerous-country skier born in Altay in the western Xinjiang region, lit the flame along with Nordic combined athlete Zhao Jiawen.

China’southward treatment of the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang – which Washington deems genocide – was the trigger for a diplomatic cold-shoulder past several Western countries including the United States.


China rejects allegations of homo rights abuses and sought to convey a spirit of inclusion during the ceremony, in which the Chinese flag was passed among 56 people representing its ethnic groups before beingness raised for the national anthem.

The anniversary was staged by movie director Zhang Yimou, reprising his role from Beijing’s 2008 Summertime Games triumph.

Merely as in Japan half a year ago, the COVID-19 pandemic imposed severe constraints, not least by paring down the number of visitors able to see the spectacle in person.

With China still sticking to a “zero Covid” policy despite the Omicron variant spreading fast across the globe, organisers decided final month non to sell tickets to the public, kept exterior a “airtight loop” of competitors and other personnel.

Though smaller in scale than the 2008 Games – dubbed China’s “coming out party” – the Beijing Wintertime Olympics are being staged past a China that is much more prosperous, powerful, confident and confrontational under Eleven.

Hours before they began, 11 and Putin unveiled their alliance, proclaiming a “no limits” friendship between their countries.

It was a stark reminder of a properties of geopolitical rivalry unseen since the tit-for-tat Common cold War boycotts of the 1980s, when the United States refused to nourish the Olympics in Moscow and the Soviet Union stayed abroad from Los Angeles.

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With tensions on both sides of the Eurasian land mass at their highest for decades, Putin and Xi publicly took each other’s sides over a range of grievances, most notably Ukraine, where the West accuses Putin of preparing for war.

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The Russian leader – who hosted his own Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014, days earlier sending troops to seize Ukraine’south Crimean peninsula – thanked Eleven for inviting him, adding: “We know commencement-hand that this is a huge task.”

In a joint Russian-Chinese statement, Beijing backed Russia’s longstanding call for NATO to halt its expansion – Moscow’s central need in a dispute with Western countries that say they believe Putin is preparing for war in Ukraine.

Russia, which has deployed more than 100,000 troops to the Ukrainian frontier, denies planning to invade but says information technology could have unspecified armed services activity unless its security demands are met.

Moscow, for its part, said it fully supported Beijing’s stance on Taiwan and opposed Taiwanese independence in any form.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach urged the world’s political leaders to observe an “Olympic truce” and “give peace a chance”.

Just political leaders from the The states and other Western countries were absent, having cited persecution of the Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities, which Beijing denies.

Rights groups accuse China of torture, forced labour and detention of 1 million people in internment camps in Xinjiang.

People’s republic of china calls them re-education and preparation facilities, says it is fighting religious extremism, and denies abuses.

“By selecting a Uyghur athlete to low-cal the torch, China is trying to accost criticism by the West most genocide or persecution of the Uyghurs, and about sinocisation of indigenous minorities,” said Ma Haiyun, an expert on Xinjiang and an associate professor at Frostburg State University in Maryland.

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“But I don’t call back this tin have much upshot on the Westward, which tends to think most of what China puts up is a show anyway.”

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