Countdown to opening ceremony start and guide to Team GB’s chances

Beijing will become the first city to stage both the Summer and Winter Olympics when the Games kick off in China in February. Many of the venues used to host the summer Games in 2008 will be reused, including the Bird’s Nest Stadium.

As was the case for the recent summer Olympics on Tokyo, these Games will take place under the shadow of the Covid pandemic, with restrictions in place, including a 21-day quarantine on arrival for those not fully vaccinated against coronavirus. 

When are the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics?

The Winter Games will be held from February 4 to 20, 2022, although sporting action begins on Wednesday, February 2.

When is the Opening Ceremony?

The Beijing 2022 Opening Ceremony will take place on Friday, February 4 to officially signal the start of the Winter Olympics. It will take place at the Beijing National Stadium – or Bird’s Nest as it is more commonly known – the same venue used to host the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2008 Summer Olympics.

The Opening Ceremony is due to begin at 12:00 GMT (20:00 Beijing time). Organisers have cited cold weather and the Covid for the reduced length, which is planned to run for approximately 100 minutes.

Zhang Yimou, who was responsible for the Beijing 2008 ceremonies, is once again chief director this time around.

The Opening Ceremony will be available to watch live on BBC One/BBC Sport website and Eurosport, the official broadcaster for the Games.

Where are they being held?

Some events will take place in the same Beijing venues that hosted the 2008 Games, including the Bird’s Nest stadium, which will again hold the opening and closing ceremonies, and the Water Cube, which has been converted from a pool into a curling arena.

The alpine skiing and sliding events – bobsleigh, luge and skeleton – will take place at Yanqing, which is within the Beijing municipality on the mountainous northwestern outskirts near a section of the Great Wall.

Zhangjiakou, northwest of Beijing in Hebei province, will host cross-country skiing, ski jumping, biathlon, snowboarding and freestyle skiing. Zhangjiakou is nearly 200 km from central Beijing and is connected by a high-speed rail that takes about an hour.

Latest news on the Beijing Olympics

The Covid-19 situation is within the «expected controllable range», despite increasing positive cases being detected, a senior official at China’s Olympics Pandemic Prevention and Control Office said.

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Organising Committee has reported 200 Covid cases since Jan. 23 among airport arrivals and those in the Games «closed loop» bubble that separates all event personnel, including athletes, from the public.

«As more people are entering China the imported Covid-19 cases are increasing,» said Huang Chun, deputy director general of the committee’s Pandemic Prevention and Control Office at a press briefing.

Huang said rising cases were also a result of more effective and accurate Covid detection techniques by customs.

Games organisers reported a total of 24 new Covid cases among Games-related personnel on Jan. 31, of which 16 were athletes.

Many athletes have been shut out from the Games after testing positive on arrival at the airport, while many more are put in isolation after testing Covid but are asymptomatic.

China credits the strict Covid control measures, including frequent nucleic acid testings, for helping prevent clustered cases inside the closed loop.

«(The Covid-19 situation) is generally within our expected controllable range. So the Games participants, including athletes, and Chinese public do not have to worry,» said Huang.

He said Olympics organisers were not considering any major changes to Covid control policies at the Games.

Athletes left bleeding by extreme Covid tests

By Oliver Brown

China’s Covid-19 testing of athletes arriving at Beijing Airport ahead of the Winter Olympics has become so extreme that some team members have described being left “bleeding” by the procedures.

An official complaint by Kazakhstan’s National Olympic Committee alleges that the nasal and throat tests required of all athletes on landing in China are far too invasive and causing unnecessary distress. “Our team arrived today in Beijing and the PCR test for everybody at the airport was such a horrible experience that a couple of our delegates had their nose bleeding after the test and their throat still hurts,” said spokeswoman Togzhan Khamzina.

“It felt like ‘they tried to take out the brain and make a hole in the throat’. This is causing such discomfort for all the delegates and they don’t want to do it again.”

The 2022 Winter Games in China, the one country in the world still pursuing an uncompromising zero-Covid policy, are being held under the strictest biosecurity protocols ever implemented in sport. Daily PCR tests are mandatory for everybody involved, while any direct engagement with the local community is forbidden. People in Beijing have been warned not to offer any help even in the event of Olympians being involved in car accidents.

The severity of China’s Covid rules is creating concern that these Winter Games will be an uneven and unfair playing field. One worry expressed by teams is that the sophisticated Chinese tests are detecting inactive remnants of the virus in athletes who have recovered from Covid within the past three months. “There will be no good Olympics,” Elena Vyalbe, president of the Russian ski federation, told Norwegian television. “It would be better to postpone them for a year, but of course it’s too late.”

Will there be spectators?

Organisers are hoping for stadium capacities of at least 30 per cent despite China’s enforcement of tight regulations to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus, the International Olympic Committee said on Tuesday.

Tickets for the winter sports extravaganza have not been sold to the local population but instead organisers are distributing them to «targeted» groups of people.

They had already said in September there would be no international spectators at the Games while those receiving tickets will be required to undertake strict Covid-19 prevention measures before, during and after attending Olympic events.

«In terms of capacity we are not there yet, because it has to be fine-tuned at a venue-by-venue basis, but I’d say if we have one person out of three (available spots) or out of two, that would already be a good result,» the IOC’s Olympic Games Executive Director Christophe Dubi said.

«It could also depend on whether it is outdoors or indoors. But the great thing is that we are going to have spectators.»

The Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, held last year following a 12-month postponement after the pandemic outbreak, had no fans in any venues, severely affecting the atmosphere during the competitions.

Dubi said while international fans could not travel to China, some foreign citizens living in Beijing would still get the chance to support their home athletes.

«This is not only for Chinese spectators but for Chinese residents, and we were very insistent on that,» Dubi told the Games website.

«So they are also reaching out to the expat community and making sure, through the embassies and other ways and means, to identify those who live in Beijing and could attend the Games.»

What Covid restrictions will there be?

All athletes and related personnel will be required to remain in a «closed loop» that includes the venues as well as dedicated transport facilities.

Athletes and others who are not fully vaccinated will be required to undergo 21 days of quarantine upon arrival in China, and all participants will be tested for Covid-19 daily.

Because most international flights into China have been cancelled, special flights from hub cities and exclusively for Games participants will be arranged.

During the Tokyo Games, which operated inside a more porous bubble, organisers reported 430 positive cases, although just 29 were among athletes and 25 among media.

What sports will there be?

Beijing will see the Olympic debut of seven new events including women’s monobob, mixed team relay events in short-track speedskating, and snowboard cross.

As was the case with the introduction of sports such as skateboarding to the summer programme, the aim is to attract a younger audience, as well as increasing female participation. The other new events are freestyle skiing big air (men and women), mixed team ski jumping and freestyle skiing aerials. 

The core sports are biathlon, bobsleigh, curling, ice hockey, luge, skating and skiing.

How have Team GB done previously? 

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