Rise and shine, Olympics fans. Here’s what you missed overnight and need to know about the 2022 Beijing Olympics this morning.
For all the Star-related Winter Games content, visit our Olympics page here.
And just like that, we’re back at it.
It’s been less than six months since the “2020” Summer Olympics in Tokyo, where Canada won an impressive 24 medals — the most they’ve ever won in a non-boycotted Summer Games.
How will they fare in Beijing? (Earlier this week, The Canadian Press projected 26, which would be three fewer than they took home in Pyeongchang in 2018).
The Winter Games will officially kick off in Beijing on Friday, just days after the city celebrated Lunar New Year. And though the stadium will have limited spectators, viewers can certainly expect a wild show (remember the incredible ceremony that opened the 2008 Olympics in Beijing?).
But before we get started, here’s a quick preview of what lies ahead, and an overview of what you missed overnight.
Not your typical Olympics
The games haven’t even begun, and these Olympics are being called the most controversial in history.
Canada, Australia, the U.K. and the U.S. are some of the countries that are engaged in a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics over China’s human rights record (though athletes from those countries will still compete.)
“Internationally, human-rights violations against Uyghurs, Tibetans, ethnic Mongolians and Chinese people at large have been a rallying point for those opposing this year’s Olympics,” writes the Star’s Jeremy Nuttall. But in Canada, the detention of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor has also pushed many fans to a boycott.
Like in Tokyo last summer, the COVID-19 pandemic looms large over Beijing 2022. Despite the arrival of the highly contagious Omicron variant, China has continued to pursue a “zero COVID” approach to the pandemic — which means limited fans and super heavy restrictions for athletes and media.
The NHL also pulled out of the Olympics due to strict COVID protocols, even though star players expressed their desire to play. (Imagine Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby on the same line!).
The Star’s Libaan Osman spoke to Team Canada biathlon athlete Adam Runnalls about what it’s like in the Olympic village (smart beds, PCR tests and Pizza Hut). Rosie DiManno, who is in Beijing to cover the games for the Star, shared her experience navigating the complex COVID protocols.
The opening ceremony
The ceremony gets underway at 7 a.m. ET on Friday morning.
Despite the diplomatic boycott, Chinese leader Xi Jinping has managed to attract an array of presidents, royals and other dignitaries to the opening ceremony, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin and the rulers of several energy-rich Gulf Arab states.
📸: GettyImages pic.twitter.com/Yb2mR7R3w5
— Beijing 2022 (@Beijing2022) February 4, 2022
The ceremony will take place in the famous “Bird’s Nest.” The 254,600 square metre stadium is the world’s largest steel structure.
Canada’s mixed doubles looking good
Team Canada’s hopes of defending the Olympic gold in mixed doubles curling got off to a promising start.
After splitting its opening two mixed doubles matches, Canada’s tandem of John Morris and Rachel Homan picked up a pair of wins Friday to move into a tie with Britain for second place in the round-robin standings at 3-1.
Nerves don’t seem to be a problem either. Asked whether he planned to watch the opening ceremony, Morris told The Canadian Press: “To be honest with you, I would much prefer to watch on TV, drink a beer, and play some cards. So that’s what I’m doing today.”
Not a great start for Canada’s figure skaters
In team figure skating, Canada sat sixth after the opening three events and faced an early elimination from a competition it won at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.
A squad already short on depth was missing Keegan Messing, who remains in Canada awaiting two more negative COVID-19 tests. Roman Sadovsky, a 22-year-old from Toronto, stepped in for Messing in the men’s short program but had a shaky skate and finished eighth out of nine skaters.
Team USA currently sits in first place with 28 points, followed by Russia with 26 and China with 21.
What’s coming up?
Double Olympic medallist Mikael Kingsbury will ski for gold in Saturday morning’s moguls final at 7:30 a.m. EST.
Morris and Homan will take on Sweden and the U.S. in mixed doubles on Saturday.
The climate in Zhangjiakou, where the skiing events will take place, is not exactly a snowy climate. For the last four decades it has averaged a scant 7.9 mm of precipitation each winter, QZ reports.
So uh, yeah. The snow will be fake. 100 per cent fake.
“China’s bid estimated that they would need 49 million gallons of water to blanket the Olympic slopes in snow. However, a geographer interviewed by Bloomberg, estimated that the country could divert as much as 2 million cubic metres (528 million gallons) of water to snow-making, further straining one of the most water-stressed regions in the country.”
Protests in India
Hundreds of Tibetan exiles marched outside the Chinese Embassy in the Indian capital of New Delhi on Friday and held a protest rally while denouncing the Beijing Winter Olympics and demanding freedom for their region.
What else is happening?
Team China’s women hockey defeated Denmark in a preliminary round matchup. But it was their goalie Jiaying Zhou and her awesome pads that have hockey fans talking.
Pita Taufatofua, the dashing “Shirtless Tongan” flag bearer who stole our hearts in 2016, 2018 and 2020, unfortunately will not be in Beijing this year. He’s helping Tonga recover from a tsunami that devastated the island nation in January.
Things have changed — a lot — since the 2008 Olympics, when four U.S. cyclists who arrived in Beijing for the Games wearing masks to counter bad air apologized to Olympic officials and the Chinese people for what came across as offensive.
“We didn’t realize the impact that wearing the masks would have,” one athlete told Reuters. “From our standpoint it was to take care of a perceived health risk.
Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris is testing out the park:
The Star in Beijing
With the Beijing Olympics, China gets three weeks to prove that China is in control, by the Star’s Bruce Arthur
Canadian curling is in crisis. The Beijing Olympics are a challenge and an opportunity, by Dave Feschuk
China has home-ice advantage and more Winter Olympics talent than ever before. This is about the athletes, after all, by Rosie DiManno
More coverage from the Star
The mountain has always been a family affair for Olympians Cassie and Darcy Sharpe, by the Star’s Kerry Gillespie
Smart beds, PCR tests and Pizza Hut: A Team Canada athlete takes us inside Beijing’s Olympic Village, by the Star’s Libaan Osman
Beijing Olympics Primer: Everything you need to know about the 2022 Winter Games
PHOTO OF THE DAY
With files from Star wire services
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