Beijing 2022 kicking off tonight with Olympic Opening Ceremony at “Bird’s Nest.”
After much speculation and many warnings regarding high pandemic numbers and political tensions due to China’s human rights violations, the Winter Olympics are set to start following an opening ceremony today. The ceremony will mark the opening of the international sports event, with several countries participating, including 80% out of the total 223 U.S. athletes.
At 8 p.m. local time (7 a.m. ET) the ceremony will take place at Beijing’s National Stadium, known as Bird’s Nest. For local viewers in the U.S. NBC will be doing a live broadcast of the entire event.
Bird’s Nest is the same stadium China hosted its ceremonies in, last time it was a host country for the Olympics, back in the summer of 2008. It is an 80,000-seat stadium, also likely to be the closing ceremony venue for the participants and their teams at the Winter Olympics.
The Organizing Committee for the 2022 Winter Olympics already announced that tickets for the games will not be sold publicly due to the “grave and complicated situation of the COVID-19 pandemic and to ensure the safety of all participants and spectators.” However, there will be specific viewers and spectators invited by the OC, granted “the organizers expect that these spectators will strictly abide by the COVID-19 countermeasures before, during and after each event.”
On the political front, President Joe Biden already refused to send an official U.S. delegation to the event as the diplomatic boycott of China due to its “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in the northwestern Xinjiang region.” However, the same cannot be said about U.S. athletes, 80% of whom signed up for the opening ceremony, dismantling any signs of a protest on behalf of them.
A total of 177 of 223 signed up to go to the Winter Olympics according to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. Those 177 athletes are all that qualified to go for the games, and not one of them denied going.
Meanwhile, tensions are such that protocol set by organizers included briefing athletes before the ceremony regarding China’s laws, should they choose to protest on their soil, said CEO Sarah Hirshland. “We want to make sure that the athletes understand the IOC guidelines and the rules of the games that they’re signing up for in that environment,” she told the press before the ceremony had begun.
In the U.S., White House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned athletes who are participating in the Winter Olympics, “Do not risk incurring the anger of the Chinese government because they are ruthless.”