Beijing bids farewell to extraordinary Winter Games

A scandal in figure skating marked by Russian intrigue. Eileen Gu, the new Chinese champion who grew up in California. Mikaela Shiffrin, the American downhill skiing star who walked away empty-handed. All within an anti-COVID “closed circuit” orchestrated by the authoritarian government of China.

This Beijing 2022 Winter Games jumble came to an end on Sunday, capping off a trio of Olympic jousts in Asia, now heading west until at least 2030.

They were very strange and tangled Games. And, at the same time, a sterile product. They were a jealously guarded Games, the only way that Xi Jinping’s China could organize them.

The “bubble” that kept its participants apart from the rest of the host city — and by extension the rest of the watching world.

On Sunday night, Xi and International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach handed over the baton to Milan-Cortina, the venue for the 2026 Winter Games.

“Little star, where are you?” — the children’s song — launched a show that mixed a strong Western flavor with Chinese elements, such as snowflake dancers and traditional lanterns. The ceremony was led by Zhang Yimou, who was also in charge of opening.

Unlike the first pandemic event in Tokyo last summer, which was staged with almost no audience at both ceremonies, a modest but noisy crowd of spectators spilled out into the seats of the “Nest,” Beijing’s Olympic Stadium. It was somewhat incongruous, a colorful and vibrant gala, even cheerful, characteristics that could hardly be felt inside the Chinese bubble.

“We welcome China as a winter sports country,” Bach said as he closed the Games. He praised the staging of the Games as “extraordinary” and highlighted the work of the authorities and the organizing committee for carrying them out in a “safe manner”.

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According to cold data, these Games were a complete success. They were, in fact, very safe — obviously along the lines that authoritarian governments are comfortable operating under. The local volunteers, as usual, were engaging and very helpful, receiving praise at the closing.

Snow also fell, largely artificial and some of the real thing. Venues like the Nest and the Aquatics Center — a legacy of the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing — lived up to expectations. A new site — the Big Air Shougang ramp — has garnered attention for hosting the world’s best snowboarders in what was, until a few years ago, a steel factory.

Viewership ratings continued to decline, but streaming numbers rose.

No major logistical problems were reported, other than those deliberately created to prevent the spread of COVID in the country where the coronavirus first emerged more than two years ago.

And he controlled it. Completed on Saturday, the circuit that transformed Beijing into two cities — one closed and the other continuing as normal — reported just 463 positive cases among the thousands of people who entered the bubble since January 23. And to no one’s surprise, the official press reacted delighted with these data.

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