Beijing countdown reaches 365 days to go

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The Ice Ribbon for speedskating is one of the new venues built for 2022.
The Ice Ribbon for speedskating is one of the new venues built for 2022.

(ATR) A prime time special on Chinese TV will invite athletes to the 2022 Winter Olympics.

IOC President Thomas Bach and National Olympic Committee leaders from China and Italy will take part in the Feb. 4 ceremony. The IOC President will formally dispatch 206 invitations to the world’s NOCs inviting athletes to travel to Beijing next year to compete. The ceremony will be available for viewing via the Olympic Channel.

The 2022 Winter Olympics are expected to include about 3,000 athletes from 109 nations.

The invitation ceremony will be the first for a summer or winter Games to be conducted virtually given the restrictions of coronavirus countermeasures.

Likewise, a first-ever virtual meeting for the Winter Olympic chefs de mission this week. In a keynote speech, Beijing Communist Party Secretary Cai Qi, also president of the organizing committee, affirmed the government’s total support of the Games.

Bach, speaking from IOC headquarters in Lausanne, called Beijing ready to hold the Winter Games.

Martin Doktor, chef de mission of the Czech team for Beijing tells Around the Rings there’s value in seeing things in person, but the Beijing 2022 staff delivered plenty of information virtually.

“We went over all the functional areas that are important for NOCs – accreditation, transportation among all three clusters, accommodation and so on – as usual during the CdM seminar.

“We have also learnt that all the permanent venues are ready. I only regret that we did not have yet a chance to visit the venues and Olympic villages in person due to current situation as personal visit is irreplaceable for us for all the planning and preparations,” Doktor says.

Eric Myles, Chief Sport Officer for the Canadian Olympic Committee, said the briefing was useful.

“The COC found the Chef de Mission webinar to be a success. The functional area presentations regarding Games preparation were very helpful. Despite the virtual setting, there were many productive interactions between the National Olympic Committees, Beijing 2022 and the IOC,” Myles says in comments for ATR.

Myles and other NOC team leaders face a unique challenge preparing for the next Winter Games just a few months after the postponed Tokyo Games. Keeping athletes and officials safe from coronavirus infection is another new wrinkle.

“We have confidence that the Games can be staged safely and successfully next February. We will continue to prioritize the health and safety of the 200-plus Canadian athletes expected to compete at Beijing 2022,” says Myles.

Doktor, a two-time medalist in Olympic canoeing, says the experience of Tokyo this year will be useful for Beijing in 2022.

“For sure preparations are going to be a bit harder but we will have more experience after Tokyo this summer. Simultaneously we work on having the best face masks or air purifiers and disinfectants possible. We have always dealt with these measures in the past but never in such extent,” says Doktor.