Opening Ceremony Beijing 2022 Photo: Li Hao/GT
Fourteen years after the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics, the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics kicked off on Friday with the same public passion and patriotic pride. As Beijing officially became a “dual Olympic” city, China also introduced the traditional solar term “Li Chun” or “beginning of spring,” which symbolizes recovery and instills hope and confidence in the world amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unlike the 2008 opening, which focused more on China’s 5,000-year history, Friday night’s 2022 opening performance blended Chinese culture with innovative green and high-tech concepts, highlighting China’s present and future. This reflects the profound changes that have taken place 14 years later in how Chinese people perceive themselves and how they hope the world perceives China.
Beginning at 8 p.m., a number bearing “happiness,” Friday night’s opening balanced “simple” and “magnificent.”
The beginning of spring countdown show consisted of a video, a live performance and fireworks. The opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics, the 24th Winter Games, coincides with the “beginning of spring,” the first of the 24 solar dates in the Chinese lunar calendar, symbolizing vitality. Fireworks bloomed in the Chinese word for “Li Chun” or “beginning of spring” and in the English word “spring”.
It was also an opening ceremony that conveyed a strong sense of patriotism. With the improvement of China’s national strength and status over the past 14 years, especially in the two years since the outbreak of the pandemic, China is the only country in the world to have overcome the pandemic, making the recognition of the Chinese people as a nation-state has way unprecedented.
An unfurled Chinese national flag was hand-passed by representatives of all 56 ethnic groups in China before the flag was raised.
Team China paraded with “Ode to the Motherland,” a song that has brought tears to the eyes of Chinese people on important occasions in recent years.
The Chinese contingent includes 177 athletes, the country’s largest presence at the Winter Olympics. China will compete in all seven sports for the first time at the 2022 Winter Olympics. Four years ago in PyeongChang, China only competed in five sports.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has repeatedly emphasized China’s goal of becoming a sports power. About a century ago, the Chinese tried to get rid of the “sick man of East Asia” label, and now they are determined to become a sports powerhouse. It’s a dream of the century.
When the first Winter Olympics were held in Chamonix, France in 1924, only 16 countries took part. 98 years later, around 3,000 athletes from 91 countries and regions will take part in the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. With this being the Games with the greatest number of events and gold medals in Winter Games history, more athletes will be chasing their dreams.
I wish you all the best for friendship in Beijing… Hosting the Winter Games is a victory of human solidarity and cooperation and the Olympic spirit, said Cai Qi, chairman of the Beijing 2022 Organizing Committee, at the opening. “Beijing will show the world mankind’s resilience in the face of difficulties.”
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach spoke highly of the commitment of the Chinese people. “Thank you for making this Winter Olympics possible in a safe way for everyone.”
Rivals can respect each other and coexist peacefully… The Olympics are always a bridge of communication, Bach said. His words were greeted with loud applause.
President Xi then declared the 24th Winter Olympic Games open at the National Stadium in Beijing to great jubilation.
Opening Ceremony Beijing 2022 Photo: Li Hao/GT
Make the difference
Usually the most exciting part of the ignition was a bit of a surprise: two young athletes, Dinigeer Yilamujiang and Zhao Jiawen, didn’t actually ignite the Olympic cauldron. Instead, they placed the torch on top of a “giant snowflake,” a cauldron of snowflakes with the name of each delegation.
As for lighting the flame, Chief Director Zhang Yimou said immediately after the opening ceremony that it represents the cultural confidence and concepts of the Chinese people in the new era.
We are a family, we are a community with a common future, we love the environment, we care about low-carbon environmental protection, Zhang said in an interview with China Central Television (CCTV) on Friday.
He said the unique lighting also embodies the traditional Chinese philosophy of “knowing that autumn comes through a leaf.” “With just a small torch and a small flame, people can think of the great Olympian spirit, a burning passion and romance of all mankind.”
Choreographed by Zhang, the acclaimed Chinese filmmaker who also directed the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics, the 2022 ceremony lasted approximately 120 minutes and involved 3,000 actors, as opposed to 4 hours, and 15,000 actors for its Beijing 2008 edition.
Changes were made even before the opening. Before the opening, a 30-minute “square dance” warm-up show was presented by a group of ordinary people aged 5 to 70.
“2008 was the first time China held the Olympic Games. We wanted to show ourselves and show the world our brilliant culture of five thousand years… because of the experience in 2008, we can rediscover ourselves and the world,” Zhang said in a previous interview with CCTV.
The opening ceremony of the 2008 Games showcased more of China’s thousand-year history, such as movable type printing, which is an ancient image of China.
He said his team wants to focus on the spirit and values of modern Chinese people in the new era, and show China’s young and dynamic side through modern art and technology.
“Today is very different from 2008,” Zhang said.
Zhang’s words carry a lot of meaning, and it’s not just the approach to hosting the opening ceremony that has changed. The excitement surrounding the Beijing Games was also offset by a severe COVID-19 pandemic caused by the spread of the Omicron variant and geographic tensions.
“China has adhered to the principle of putting life first to minimize infection, in stark contrast to some Western countries which have abandoned their resistance to the virus under the guise of coexistence… It’s clear to all that the response to the pandemic has turned into institutional competition. So whether the Winter Olympics can be successfully held is already beyond the scope of the Games themselves,” said Song Luzheng, a researcher in international relations at the China Institute of Fudan University in Shanghai.
“The world, which has been suffering from the pandemic for more than two years, is in dire need of a wonderful Olympic event,” Song said. “The world strives to recreate a wonderful time that will never be forgotten.”
The expert said it was a miracle that the Beijing Winter Olympics were held as planned despite the pandemic. And it shows the strong spirit of people who never compromise with fate in the face of disaster.
“This will be the greatest contribution of the Beijing Winter Olympics to mankind and will go down in history,” Song said. “Beijing 2022 comes with ‘Li Chun’. Can spring be far behind?”