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“Unforgettable adventure”: The Beijing games are history

“Unforgettable Adventure”
The Beijing games are history

The Beijing Winter Olympics are over: China’s head of state Xi Jinping and IOC President Thomas Bach say goodbye to the athletes. From a German point of view, there is a decent medal record at the end. But of course the games are not only remembered for great sporting deeds.

The Beijing Winter Olympics ended with a colorful and symbolic celebration. In the Vogelnest Stadium, IOC President Thomas Bach spoke of “truly extraordinary games” and declared the 24th Winter Games, which were characterized by strict corona restrictions and political debates, to be over with the official closing formula.

At 9:37 p.m. local time, the Olympic flame went out in front of the eyes of China’s President Xi Jinping as a grandstand guest. The next Winter Games will be held in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo in 2026. Two years earlier, the flame will next be lit when Paris will host the Summer Games in 2024.

Arranged by famous Chinese director Zhang Yimou, the final act echoed the symbolism of the opening ceremony. The changing play of light and snow continued throughout the almost 100-minute ceremony. The mood in the stadium seemed more carefree than at the opening.

“Fantastic, very excellent”

At the head of the remaining 40-strong German delegation, bobsleigh brakeman Thorsten Margis walked in as the flag bearer to the sounds of the “Ode to Joy”. The 32-year-old won gold in the two-man and four-man bobsleigh from pilot Francesco Friedrich. Dancing in a circle, the German team said goodbye to these games with twelve gold medals and 27 medals, second behind Norway in the national rankings. China’s superstar Eileen Gu was acclaimed. The ski freestyler won two gold medals and is considered one of the faces of these games.

The Olympians were said goodbye with the symbol of the willow rod. According to the organizers, this should also be understood as an allusion to a blossoming after the corona pandemic. For quite a few athletes in the stadium, the closing ceremony was probably accompanied by a feeling of relief at being able to fly home again after exhausting weeks full of deprivation.

In his speech, Bach called for the fair distribution of vaccines. Against the background of international conflicts, the 68-year-old warned political leaders all over the world to follow the example of “solidarity and peace” among athletes. Even before the final act, the hosts had given each other excellent marks. These games were a “successful prime example,” said head of organization Cai Qi, describing the two weeks in Beijing as “fantastic, extraordinary and absolutely outstanding.”

The Olympic organizers were allowed to use the often emotional glossy pictures of the 109 decisions in perfect competition venues as evidence for their hymns of praise. The organizers also saw themselves confirmed in the success of the tough corona measures in the hermetically sealed Olympic bubble. In 1.7 million corona tests, 437 infections had been found in the past four weeks. The price for this was the constant surveillance of those involved, the fences around the Olympic parallel world and the depressing reports from athletes from the quarantine hotels.

“Platform for propaganda purposes”

This side of the Winter Games quickly led to fundamental criticism of the choice of China as the host. They were also overshadowed by a diplomatic boycott – led by the US, Canada, Great Britain and Australia, which did not send political representatives to the opening and closing ceremonies. Germany did not send any representatives either, but did not want to speak of a boycott. The host was able to use the Winter Games “as a platform for his propaganda purposes,” said the Athletes Germany association, and denounced the IOC’s silence on human rights violations in China.

While the Ring circle around Bach always emphasized the separation of sport and politics, China had a Uyghur cross-country skier light the flame at the opening. The spokeswoman for the organizers described reports about re-education camps for the Muslim minority as “lies” and denied the independence of Taiwan, which the communist leadership has been threatening to conquer for some time.

The case of Kamila Valiyeva also casts a dark shadow over the Beijing Games. The Russian figure skater’s doping offense became known shortly after winning team gold. After that, the 15-year-old is in the merciless spotlight for days. Although she is allowed to compete in the women’s competition, she sadly breaks under the pressure before the eyes of the world. The debates about Russia’s doping culture and a minimum age for Olympic participants will keep the sports world busy for a long time to come.

At the last award ceremony of these games, the Russian Alexander Bolschunov stood on the podium in the stadium on Sunday evening. The Russian anthem was not played, the Russian flag was not allowed to be hoisted.

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