The Winter Olympics in Beijing officially began with the opening ceremony.
The ceremony started at exactly 8:00 p.m. local time (1:00 p.m. CET) in the “Bird’s Nest” stadium in the Chinese capital, which was filled with around 25,000 spectators despite fears of the spread of the corona pandemic.
Exactly 4928 days earlier, the 2008 Summer Games had opened at the same place. This makes Beijing the first city to be allowed to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics.
Speech by UN Secretary-General omitted
The highest-ranking guest was China’s powerful head of state Xi Jinping, who opened the games. In his subsequent speech, IOC President Thomas Bach appealed to the world’s political leaders to refrain from acts of war during the two-week sporting competitions. Around 30 heads of state had announced themselves as visitors – significantly fewer than in “non-pandemic times”, but at least twice as many as half a year earlier at the summer games in Tokyo.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Tedros Adhanom, head of the World Health Organization (WHO), were also on the guest list. A recording of a speech by Guterres that was planned for the program, including one on the subject of “human rights”, was not shown for reasons that are not yet known.
Some representatives of western nations such as the US and the UK are boycotting the opening ceremony because of China’s human rights abuses.
Switzerland as No. 77
The longest item on the program of the approximately two-hour celebration with the highest safety and hygiene precautions for the visitors was the march in of the athletes, during which a man and a woman carried the flag of a nation together for the first time at the Winter Games. This system had its premiere in Tokyo in 2021.
It was Switzerland’s turn as the 77th nation. Skier Wendy Holdener and ice hockey player Andres Ambühl led the Swiss delegation as flag bearers. Swiss Olympic sent 167 athletes to China – 15 medals are the declared goal.
Traditionally, Greece, the first venue for the Olympic Games in history, kicked things off. Hosts China arrived as the 91st and last nation.
To conclude the celebration, cross-country skier Yilamujiang Dinigeer and Nordic combined athlete Zhao Jiawen lit the Olympic flame.