Beijing will become the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Games following its Olympic debut in 2008, and last month, organizers said preparation was “very much on track” for the Games to be delivered as planned.
But it hasn’t been straightforward. As with last year’s Summer Olympics, a raft of Covid-19 countermeasures have been put in place ahead of the Games, which will again take place in a Covid-safe “bubble” system.
When the Games do finally get underway with the opening ceremony on February 4 — lasting until the closing ceremony on February 20 — close to 3,000 athletes will compete in 15 disciplines across 109 events.
Beijing will then also host the Paralympic Games, which run from March 4-13.
How will the Games be staged amid the pandemic?
Organizers intend to hold Beijing 2022 in a closed loop system which will only be accessible for Games participants — a plan that has remained in place amid the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.
As outlined in a Games playbook published in December, the closed loop system will encompass venues, official hotels and the event’s own transport service.
Fully vaccinated participants will be able to enter the closed loop without quarantining, while those who aren’t vaccinated will need to quarantine for 21 days upon arrival in Beijing.
During the Games, participants will be subject to daily health monitoring and testing and will have no contact with the general public.
“The loop is very safe. It’s a place that I would say is very difficult to compare with any other place in the world at this point in time, because we have here a fully vaccinated, often boosted population that is being tested daily with a PCR and living in a closed loop,” Pierre Ducrey, Olympic Games operations director for the International Olympic Committee (IOC), told reporters on January 12.
Ducrey added: “It is called a closed loop for that very reason. It means there will be no contact between people outside the loop and inside the loop. It has been built to protect the population inside, and also the population outside.”
Returning a confirmed positive test will mean participants cannot compete or continue their role in the Games; those who are symptomatic will stay at a designated hospital for treatment, while those who are asymptomatic will be transferred to an isolation facility.
Will fans attend?
Tickets for the Games will not be sold to the general public in response to the pandemic, but instead distributed by authorities, the Beijing Winter Olympics Organizing Committee announced on January 17.
“In terms of the grim and complex situation of epidemic prevention and control [and] in order to protect the health and safety of Olympic personnel and spectators, we have decided to change the original plan of public ticket sales,” the committee said.
Audiences will still be required to “strictly comply with Covid-19 prevention and control requirements before, during and after watching the Games,” the committee continued.
The announcement comes after Beijing reported its first case of the highly transmissible Omicron variant on January 15.
Where are the venues?
While the Chinese capital of Beijing is the official host city of the Games, venues are spread across three areas: Beijing, Yanqing — a mountainous district 75 kilometers (about 46.6 miles) northwest of Beijing — and Zhangjiakou, a skiing and snowboarding destination a further 100 kilometers (about 62.1 miles) beyond Yanqing.
Of the 13 venues hosting events, one — the National Speed Skating Oval — has been newly built in Beijing, while existing venues have also been renovated for the Games.
The Beijing National Stadium, commonly referred to as The Bird’s Nest, will host the opening and closing ceremonies.
Each of the three zones has its own Olympic Village, while all three are connected by a newly built, intercity railway.
Who are the Olympic and Paralympic mascots?
The mascot for the Winter Olympics is Bing Dwen Dwen — a panda dressed in a full-body “shell” made out of ice — and Shuey Rhon Rhon for the Paralympics, a Chinese lantern child.
Bing Dwen Dwen (Bing means ‘ice’ in Mandarin Chinese, while Dwen Dwen means ‘child’) was chosen from over 5,800 submissions from around the world.
The “shell” design enables the panda — China’s national animal — to skate, snowboard and ski.
What is the political controversy surrounding Beijing 2022?
The US, Canada, Australia and the UK are among the countries to have announced diplomatic boycotts of the Winter Olympics.
That means that athletes from those countries will still be able to compete in Beijing, but no government officials will be in attendance.
In December, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the boycott would serve as a “clear message” against China’s “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang.”
Following the announcement of the US diplomatic boycott, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said that the US should “stop politicizing sports and hyping up the so-called ‘diplomatic boycott’ so as not to affect China-US dialogue and cooperation in important areas.”
Who are the athletes to watch?
Shiffrin, who has recently returned to alpine skiing’s World Cup circuit after contracting Covid-19, is set to be one of the most high-profile athletes in Beijing. At the last Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, she won gold in the giant slalom and silver in the alpine combined.
Two-time figure skating gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu from Japan will go up against Chen in his bid to win a third consecutive gold medal in the men’s singles event.
Mikael Kingsbury, the most decorated mogul skier of all time, will also be heading to Beijing to try and defend his title from 2018.
China, not as dominant at the Winter Olympics compared to the Summer Games, won nine medals in 2018.
Why is North Korea going to miss the Games?
One country to have announced that it will not be sending athletes to Beijing is North Korea.
According to state-run news agency KCNA, a letter sent from North Korea’s Olympic Committee and Ministry of Physical Culture and Sports to its Chinese counterpart cited “hostile forces” and the worldwide pandemic as the reasons for its non-participation, accusing the United States and its allies of trying to prevent the successful opening of the Olympics.
The US and its allies are getting “evermore undisguised in their moves against China aimed at preventing the successful opening of the Olympics,” the letter, which did not explicitly cite diplomatic boycotts, said.
The IOC said at the time that if any North Korean athletes were to qualify for the Winter Olympics through processes already taking place, it “will take an appropriate decision in due course for the athlete(s) concerned.”
CNN’s Nectar Gan contributed reporting to this piece.