Beijing 2022 Olympic Games, officially opened, are now a reality: “The Olympics represent humanity at its best”

Games will run until February 20. Fourteen years after China hosted its first Olympic Games in the blazing heat of summer, the Bird’s Nest once again put on a spectacular show.

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2022 Beijing Olympics - Opening Ceremony - National Stadium, Beijing, China - February 4, 2022. Performers stand as flag representing the Chinese Taipei team under official IOC designation is shown on a screen during the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Toby Melville
2022 Beijing Olympics - Opening Ceremony - National Stadium, Beijing, China - February 4, 2022. Performers stand as flag representing the Chinese Taipei team under official IOC designation is shown on a screen during the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Toby Melville

BEIJING - The Chinese believe extreme cold often breeds new life. On the first day of spring, the chilly Opening Ceremony of the 24th Olympic Winter Games showcased China’s growth into a winter sports country.

“We all could only get here because of the countless medical workers, doctors, scientists, everybody in China and around the world who are going beyond the call of duty. Thank you for your outstanding efforts and solidarity”, said the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, as he declared the Games of the XXIV Olympiad open.

“You have arrived here after overcoming so many challenges, living through great uncertainty. But now your moment has come: the moment you have been longing for - the moment we all have been longing for. Now - your Olympic dream is coming true - in magnificent venues, supported by hundreds of millions of new Chinese winter sport fans”, Bach added, speaking to the participating athletes.

2022 Beijing Olympics - Opening Ceremony - National Stadium, Beijing, China - February 4, 2022. International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach gives a speech during the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
2022 Beijing Olympics - Opening Ceremony - National Stadium, Beijing, China - February 4, 2022. International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach gives a speech during the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

“Over the next two weeks you will compete with each other for the highest prize. At the same time, you will live peacefully together under one roof in the Olympic Village. There – there will be no discrimination for any reason whatsoever. In our fragile world, where division, conflict and mistrust are on the rise, we show the world: yes, it is possible to be fierce rivals, while at the same time living peacefully and respectfully together”.

Fourteen years after China hosted its first Olympic Games in the blazing heat of summer, the Bird’s Nest once again put on a spectacular show.

Beijing is the first city to host both summer and winter edition of the Olympics. While Beijing 2008 had the theme “One World, One Dream,” Beijing 2022 adopted “One World, One Family” as a motif with a backdrop of a snowflake representing “Together.”

The ceremony creators merged the snowflake concept with the traditional entrance of the doves. Children carried doves on sticks and sang about snowflakes, eventually forming a heart.

And then came the moment everyone awaited. The flame arrived after an abbreviated torch relay of only three days.

The 2008 lighting of the Olympic cauldron was a tough act to follow. At those Games, gymnast Li Ning — with the help of wires — did a lap around the top of the stadium. He pretended to run in slow motion as a Chinese scroll unfurled before him.

Seven torchbearers carried six torches in the final segment within the stadium. All of the torchbearers were Chinese winter sports athletes born in sequential decades starting with the 1950s and ending in the 2000s. This shows the continuity of winter sports traditions across the generations.

The last torch was shared by a man and a woman to celebrate gender equality. Dinigeer Yillamujiang, cross country skier, and Jiawen Zhao, Nordic combined athlete, lit the cauldron together.

They ran to the center of the stadium, through the doves and a stairway appeared, taking them to the center of the snowflake which was the cauldron all along. The snowflake floated up and twirled around.

2022 Beijing Olympics - Opening Ceremony - National Stadium, Beijing, China - February 4, 2022. General view of the Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
2022 Beijing Olympics - Opening Ceremony - National Stadium, Beijing, China - February 4, 2022. General view of the Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
2022 Beijing Olympics - Opening Ceremony - National Stadium, Beijing, China - February 4, 2022. Performers during the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
2022 Beijing Olympics - Opening Ceremony - National Stadium, Beijing, China - February 4, 2022. Performers during the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

While this ceremony had no segment to compare to the magnificent drummers of 2008, the fireworks lived up their predecessors. During the spring performance, fireworks spelled out the English word “SPRING” and the Chinese characters or “Lichun,” marking the first time fireworks in both languages appeared at the same time.

And the cascade of fireworks which thundered above the rim of the Bird’s Nest after Xi declared the Games open were surpassed by the ending barrage.

Because of the pandemic, the stadium was not full, but approximately 20,000 people waved flags as they sat at least a seat apart. Goodie bags included a blanket, gloves, a beanie hat and, of course, face masks.

The temperature was according to Winter Games: 23 F, -5 C.

With a motto of Together for a Shared Future, Beijing 2022 showed it could put on a socially distanced event.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, who officially declared the Games Open, was in a puffy jacket, while IOC President Thomas Bach wore only a suit as he entered the VIP box.

2022 Beijing Olympics - Opening Ceremony - National Stadium, Beijing, China - February 4, 2022. United States of America contingent is seen during the athletes parade at the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
2022 Beijing Olympics - Opening Ceremony - National Stadium, Beijing, China - February 4, 2022. United States of America contingent is seen during the athletes parade at the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

With themes of snowflakes and ice, an Ice block appeared and impressive graphics showed a roll call of the 23 previous Winter Olympics.

Then the ice melted away to reveal giant Olympic Rings, which hung suspended in the middle of the stadium.

The floor of the Bird’s Nest was an LED screen six times the size of a figure skating rink

The Parade of Nations took about an hour. As a nod to the positive coronavirus tests which are derailing some athletes’ Olympic dreams, one of the Team USA flag bearers was a substitute. Speed skater Brittany Bowe filled in for bobsled pilot Elana Meyers Taylor, who is in isolation after testing positive. She hopes to be able to compete.

2022 Beijing Olympics - Opening Ceremony - National Stadium, Beijing, China - February 4, 2022. China contingent is seen during the athletes parade at the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
2022 Beijing Olympics - Opening Ceremony - National Stadium, Beijing, China - February 4, 2022. China contingent is seen during the athletes parade at the opening ceremony. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

Team USA ice dancer Madison Hubbell said she was determined to watch the whole ceremony.

“I don’t care how many layers I have on,” she said. “I’m going to have like four socks in my boots, I’m staying.”

The East Timor delegation wore some of the more culturally distinctive outfits, while Nathan Crumpton, skeleton racer and flag bearer for American Samoa bared his torso in native dress.

The Greek delegation, as is traditional, opened the parade.

The bearers of the Olympic flag Included Luo Zhihuan, the speed skating world champion who won the first Chinese athlete to win a world title in winter sports.

They crossed the stadium floor as it spelled out “Faster Higher Stronger Together” in English and Chinese.

Before the opening ceremony, Bach, passed the flame to the United Nations General Assembly President, Abdullah Shahid, after receiving it from Chinese IOC member and Olympic champion in speed skating, Zhang Hong.

“The Olympics represent humanity at its best”, said Shahid. “The best of the coming together to compete graciously, to accept winning with humility and defeat with graciousness. That is what the event is about. And that is what the Olympic flame represents”.

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