|Competition type||Olympic Games|
|Number and Year||XXIV / 2022|
|Host city||Beijing, People's Republic of China (Venues)|
|Opening ceremony||4 February|
|Closing ceremony||20 February|
|Competition dates||2 – 20 February|
|OCOG||Beijing Organising Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games|
|Participants||2786 from 91 countries|
|Medal events||109 in 15 disciplines|
The 2022 Olympic Winter Games saw Beijing, China became the first city to host both the Olympic Games and the Olympic Winter Games. Beijing was not known as a winter sports haven, but it was chosen as the 2022 host at the 128th IOC Session in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in July 2015, narrowly defeating Almaty, Kazakhstan by four votes, 44-40.
They were the only two cities to make it to the final round of bidding, after Kraków and Zakopane, Poland; Lviv, Ukraine; Stockholm, Sweden; and Oslo, Norway had all withdrawn bids for various reasons, including citizen referendums and concerns over the bidding and hosting costs. It would eventually lead the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to change its method of selecting host cities.
Controversies multiplied as the Games approached. The COVID-19 pandemic lingered on, causing the Games to be held within a bubble, which Beijing 2022 termed a “closed loop,” allowing no freedom of movement to the Olympic Family. The Russian Federation was still a pariah to the IOC for its many doping scandals and could only compete as the Russian Olympic Committee. The world’s media focused their attention on the host country, decrying China’s treatment of their Uyghur minorities, and their approach to recent protests in Hong Kong. Still the Games went on.
The Beijing 2022 Games would take place in three clusters – Beijing itself, Yanqing, and Zhangjiakou, the latter two mountain clusters far removed from the city centre. As Sochi had done in 2014, Beijing 2022 built ski resorts at Yanqing and Zhangjiakou out of nothing, and also built a modern, bullet train to transport athletes, officials and spectators to the skiing venues. Little did they know while building it that there would be few, if any, spectators to board that train due to COVID-19.
Both ski venues had little history of snow, but the Beijing Organizing Committee (BOCOG) solved that problem by using man-made snow, presenting a stark contrast of ski venues with courses of pure white midst brown mountains of rock and soil above timberline, although to be fair, it did finally snow in the middle of the Games, so that the mountain venues looked a bit more like a Winter Olympics.
As always, the athletes made the Olympic Games, led by biathletes Norwegians Marte Olsbu Røiseland and Johannes Thingnes Bø and France’s Quentin Fillon Maillet. Bø took home five medals and four gold medals, with Fillon Maillet also winning five medals, two golds and three silvers, while Roeiseland won three golds, adding a silver and bronze. For the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) team, Aleksandr Bolshunov won five medals in cross-country skiing, three of them gold.
At the speedskating oval Irene Schouten (NED) won three gold medals, in the 3,000, 5,000, and mass start, and Sweden’s Nils van der Poel won gold medals in the 5,000 and 10,000, setting a world record in the latter race.
At that stunning oval the Games saw the final Olympic appearances of three legends of the sport. Claudia Pechstein (GER) competed in her eighth Olympic Winter Games only weeks shy of her 50th birthday, the oldest ever female Winter Olympian. Sven Kramer (NED) ended his Olympic career, barely making the Dutch team but far removed from his glory days. His teammate Ireen Wüst fared better, winning gold in the 1,500 metres and bronze in the team pursuit to finish her Olympic career with 13 medals and six gold medals, both female marks surpassed at the Winter Olympics only by Marit Bjørgen (NOR) in cross-country skiing.
Mikaela Shiffrin was expected to star at the Beijing 2022 Games. The American Alpine skier, considered one of the best of all-time, was competing in all six Alpine events, but Shiffrin failed to finish in her three best events – slalom, giant slalom, and combined – and left Beijing unable to add to her medal totals from Sochi and PyeongChang. The ski world was shocked, as was the media, but applauded the magnanimous way she handled a difficult Olympics.
The figure skating world was expecting to anoint Kamila Valiyeva of the ROC team, a 15-year-old wunderkind, as the greatest ever female skater. Some already considered her so, and in the mixed team competition her short program was sublime, and she finished the event with her free skate, leading the ROC team to what seemed to be a gold medal.
A few days later, word came out that Valiyeva had failed a doping test around Christmas 2021, testing positive for trimetazidine, a heart pill incongruously found in the body of a 15-year-old naïf, but the RUSADA (Russian Anti-Doping Agency) had cleared her to skate at Beijing. Both the IOC and WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency), however, protested to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).
Days passed until, finally, the day before the women’s competition began, the CAS provisionally cleared Valiyeva to skate, citing her age making her a protected person, and the fact that she did not have her B-sample tested yet, although one wonders why RUSADA had gone seven weeks without testing that sample. Valiyeva led the short program with a fine performance, but clearly without the sparkle she had had in the team competition, surely tempered by the controversy and what had to be days of sleepless nights. Because of the doping controversy, the IOC refused to hold a medal ceremony for the event in Beijing, waiting to receive the final results of Valiyeva’s B-sample and ultimate CAS decision.
The night of the women’s free skate, it was expected that the ROC team would sweep the medals, led by Valiyeva and her teammates, Anna Shcherbakova and Aleksandra Trusova, all three coached by the famed Russian skating coach, martinet-like Eteri Tutberidze. Shcherbakova and Trusova skated flawlessly and stood 1-2 as Valiyeva took the ice, holding a comfortable lead over her teammates.
Valiyeva fell on her first quad jump. Then she fell again. Then she fell again. Stumbling throughout, she came off the ice in tears, only to be accosted by Tutberidze in front of the international cameras, asking her mercilessly why she had “let it go” like that, while Kamila continued to cry. She would fall back to fourth place, off the podium as Shcherbakova won gold and Trusova silver, and the medal ceremony did take place since Valiyeva was not a part of it.
The next day, IOC President Thomas Bach called for an investigation into Valiyeva’s entourage, both for her positive doping test, and for the way Tutberidze handled her after a traumatic week and harrowing free skate. This led to calls for higher age limits for athletes at the Olympics, considering athletes of Valiyeva’s age unable to handle the stress and pressure of that competition and the necessary training, and some calling it akin to child abuse.
The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics were beautifully organized and run with military precision as the world’s attention focused on the athletes and the amazing venues, many of them re-used from the 2008 Olympic Games. Yet the Games seemed sterile, perhaps a fitting necessity in a world consumed by a coronavirus, as they seemed devoid of fun within the closed loop as the Olympic Movement, after Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 yearned to be free.
The 2022 Olympic Winter Games ended as they had begun, after a fortnight neath cloudless, pristine, cerulean skies. So much about them had been memorable yet the Olympic Movement looked to move on, beyond the controversies, and hoping for a world devoid of a COVID-19 pandemic, looking to 2024 and longing for Rick’s words to Ilsa, “We’ll always have Paris.”
Bid voting at the 128th IOC Session in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 31 July 2015. Krakow, Poland & Jasna, Slovakia; Lviv, Ukraine; and Oslo, Norway had originally bid but withdrew before the final vote.
|Beijing / Zhangjiakou||China||44|
|Officially opened by||Xi Jinping (President)|
|Torchbearer(s)||Yilamujiang Dinigeer (Lit flame), Zhao Jiawen (Lit flame), Zhou Yang, Su Bingtian, Yang Yang (A), Li Yan, Zhao Weichang|
|Taker of the Athlete's Oath||Wang Qiang, Liu Jiayu|
|Taker of the Official's Oath||Tao Yongchun|
|Taker of the Coach's Oath||Ji Xiaoou|
|Olympic Flag Bearers||Luo Zhihuan, Zhang Hui, Li Jiajun, Shen Xue, Han Xiaopeng, Zhang Hong|
|Alpine Skiing||Figure Skating||Short Track Speed Skating|
|Bobsleigh||Ice Hockey||Ski Jumping|
|Cross Country Skiing||Luge||Snowboarding|
|Curling||Nordic Combined||Speed Skating|
|People's Republic of China||CHN||9||4||2||15|
|Republic of Korea||KOR||2||5||2||9|
|Johannes Thingnes Bø||NOR||4||0||1||5|
|Marte Olsbu Røiseland||NOR||3||0||2||5|
|Quentin Fillon Maillet||FRA||2||3||0||5|
|Johannes Høsflot Klæbo||NOR||2||1||1||4|