Teen prodigies, legends of the ice and synthetic snow, however Covid more likely to make Beijing ‘unpredictable’

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Within the shadow of a worldwide pandemic, fragile world relationships and diplomatic boycotts, this version might be one of the vital controversial because the modern Olympics started in 1896.
Virtually 3,000 athletes from 91 nations will compete at 109 medal occasions throughout seven sports activities, that are scheduled to happen from February 2 to February 20.

From China’s teen hopefuls, who’re among the many favorites for gold, and the determine skating veterans who will even battling to prime the rostrum, to a controversial layer of synthetic snow blanketing Beijing’s ski slopes, listed below are 5 subjects to find out about Beijing 2022.

Curling, determine skating and snowboarding

Members of China's men's ice hockey team attend a training session at the National Indoor Stadium on January 28, 2022 in Beijing.
Athletes will take part in 15 totally different disciplines throughout seven sports on the Beijing Games, together with curling, determine skating, ice hockey and snowboarding. There will even be new occasions in bobsled, freestyle snowboarding, snowboarding, quick monitor and ski leaping.
With its roots regarded as within the sixteenth century, curling is without doubt one of the most original occasions on the Winter Video games. It may be one of many Winter Olympics’ slower sports activities, however the pressure, suspense and talent concerned makes it an viewers favourite.
There shall be 9 medals for the taking throughout three curling occasions this yr, with women’s and men’s athletes from Sweden and Canada among the many highest-ranked World Curling Group rivals.
What is curling? Everything you need to know about this winter sport

Determine skating was held twice on the 1908 and 1920 Summer time Video games in London and Antwerp respectively, earlier than it was transferred to the Winter program.

It’s a sport that requires precision and consistency, exemplified by Russian Kamila Valieva. At simply 15 years previous, the world report holder, who will skate for the Russian Olympic Committee, is without doubt one of the contestants to beat at Beijing 2022.
Within the males’s determine skating occasions, Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu and Nathan Chen of Group USA — who’ve 5 World Championship titles between them — are more likely to battle for the gold.
Defending Olympic champions Germany are favorites for gold in bobsled, having received gold in each single one of many girls’s and males’s occasions on the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

China’s prodigies go for gold

Eileen Gu places first in the Women's Freeski Halfpipe competition at the Toyota U.S. Grand Prix on January 8 in Mammoth, California.
Having claimed only one gold medal on the Winter Olympics in 2018, hosts China will look to redeem themselves utilizing this yr’s house benefit. They’re pinning their hopes on their largest ever athlete delegation, with 176 competitors going for gold.
At Beijing 2022, China might win as many as six gold medals, in accordance with information firm Gracenote, which launched its digital medal desk on Wednesday.

“As a result of influence of the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic, there’s potential for the Beijing Winter Video games to be extra unpredictable than norm,’ mentioned Gracenote in an announcement.

“On the time of writing, Austrian ski jumper Sara Marita Kramer (initially forecast gold) is out of the Olympics due to a constructive Covid take a look at and has been faraway from the forecast. Hungarian quick monitor skater Shaoang Liu (forecast silver) is uncertain for a similar motive.”

Chinese language hope are pinned on freestyle skier Eileen Gu, who made her mark on the 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Video games in Lausanne, Switzerland, the place she earned gold in each massive air and halfpipe, with an extra silver in slopestyle.
Nicknamed “Snow Princess” by her followers, the 18-year-old mentioned that her mom and grandmother are “by far the 2 greatest influences in my life,” calling them “the definition of empowered girls, to the max,” in accordance with the Olympics website.
Su Yiming turned the primary ever Chinese language snowboarder to make a World Cup podium in slopestyle or massive air in December 2021 at Steamboat, Colorado. This yr, the 17-year-old will hope to copy his efficiency in each occasions.
Different Chinese language frontrunners this yr embody freestyle skier and seven-time Olympic medalist Xu Mengtao, figure skating duo Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, and quick monitor pace skater Wu Dajing, who received his nation’s solely gold medal at PyeongChang 2018.

Norway hopes to copy PyeongChang success

Norway's Johannes Høsflot Klæbo and Martin Johnsrud Sundby win gold at the cross country men's free team sprint during the PyeongChang 2018 Games.
Norway is the most successful country within the historical past of the Winter Olympics, with a complete of 368 medals underneath its belt — together with 132 gold medals, 125 silver medals and 111 bronze medals.
Gracenote is predicting Norway will prime the medal desk. And Norway’s predicted medal haul of 44 might embody as many as 21 golds, which might be a report on the Winter Olympics, according to the data company.
Group Norway additionally topped the overall medal table on the Winter Video games in 2018, incomes 39 medals forward of Germany, Canada and america.

Biathlete Johannes Thingnes Bø, already a three-time Olympic medalist, is a podium favourite for Beijing 2022. Having earned 9 World Championship wins because the Winter Video games in 2018, Bø names legendary biathlete and compatriot Emil Hegle Svendsen as certainly one of his heroes, in accordance with the Olympics web site.

One of many nation’s most fruitful occasions is cross-country snowboarding, the place Johannes Høsflot Klæbo received three of Norway’s 14 gold medals at PyeongChang 2018. He told CNN Sport on the time, “It is fairly cool to be part of it as a result of everybody conjures up everybody.”

‘It is definitely a problem’

Employees carrying out PCR tests for Covid-19 upon passenger arrivals at Beijing Capital International Airport ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics.
The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics would be the second Video games to happen in the course of the coronavirus pandemic, after the Tokyo 2020 Olympics final summer time — the place there have been 33 constructive instances among the many 11,300 athletes, in accordance with the genomic sequencing data confirmed by the Authorities of Japan final December.

As such, event organizers have been strategizing as a way to preserve instances of Covid-19 to a minimal. They’ve prolonged the federal government’s zero-Covid technique to the Olympics, making a bubble that’s successfully sealed off from the remainder of Beijing.

Dubbing it a “closed loop system,” authorities haven’t disclosed what number of employees shall be inside alongside athletes, officers, the media and IOC members. Nonetheless, measures embody every day testing, necessary face masks and temperature checks.
Athletes who’re hoping to enter the closed loop safely are doing every part they will to keep away from catching Covid-19, together with Group GB skeleton racer Hannah Soar, who told CNN Sport in January: “It is definitely a problem and it simply signifies that I am unable to actually stay a traditional life in the mean time.

“I’ve jumped all of those hurdles over the previous few years to get so far and I am simply making an attempt actually laborious to do all the suitable issues now in order that I can get to Beijing safely with out Covid.”

Synthetic snow will fall

A general view of the moguls venue at Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou, China.
The climate crisis is jeopardizing winter sports activities and creating precarious conditions for athletes to compete in, in accordance with a latest report by Loughborough College’s Sport Ecology Group within the UK, and the environmental group Defend Our Winters.

This yr’s Video games would be the first to make use of almost 100% synthetic snow, working about 300 snow cannons and 100 snow mills to coat the ski slopes.

Whereas event organizers have mentioned they are going to supply water for the synthetic snow from summer time rainfall and mountain runoff, the analysis added that the local weather disaster means there’s much less pure snowfall, and water accessible for synthetic snow — threatening the future of winter sports.
Because the first Games in 1924 in Chamonix, France, 21 venues have been used for the Winter Olympics. Nonetheless, researchers predict that slightly below half of these venues could have the appropriate local weather circumstances and pure snowfall to host an occasion by 2050.
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