Are you excited? I know I am! The Winter Games kick off on February 4 and run through February 20, and I can’t wait to watch.
If you think it hasn’t been long since the Summer Games, you’re right; this is the first time in three decades that the Summer and Winter Olympics have been less than a year apart.
Like the Summer Games, however, the Winter Games will be severely impacted by Covid. Anybody going to the Olympics — athletes, team personnel and media — will need to be vaccinated and have two negative tests before heading to China, and will also be tested at the airport upon arrival. During the Games, everyone will get daily throat swabs for PCR tests with results coming back within a day. What’s more, the International Olympic Committee has announced that only “selected” spectators will be allowed to attend. No fans from outside the country will be allowed and tickets are not being offered to the general public.
And then there’s the political controversy. A number of countries have decided not to send any diplomatic delegations to the Games, in protest of China’s human rights abuses. Nonetheless, the Games will still go on (yes, US athletes will compete), and millions of people from around the globe will tune in to see who takes home the Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals.
So to get you ready to watch the games, here are some facts you may want to know:
• Beijing’s history can be traced back 3,000 years. It’s about as old as London, six times older than New York, and ten times older than Sydney.
• Beijing is also one of the oldest inhabited areas in the world. Fossils indicate that Peking Man (Homo Erectus) lived there from 770,000 to 230,000 years ago.
• Beijing has a population of almost 22.5 million (almost as many as Australia) in an area of 6,500 square miles. It is China’s second-largest city after Shanghai.
• Beijing will be the first first city ever to host both Summer (2008) and Winter (2022) Olympic games.
• Beijing averages just one week of precipitation during winter, according to data tracked by the World Meteorological Organization. The average high temperature during February is about 40 degrees — well above freezing. Yanqing, the site of the ski center, receives an average of just over eight inches of snow a year.
• All of the snow at the Olympics will be artificially produced. By the time the first skiers hit the slopes at the Alpine Center, more than 1.2 million cubic tons of artificial snow will have been blasted, spread by snowcats, and groomed for competition by a team of 20-plus international and domestic workers. The process is projected to pull 49 million gallons of water from natural resources.
• There will be 91 countries and more than 2,800 athletes competing in 109 events in seven sports during the Winter Games.
• While Beijing will have its name on the event, the Games’ venues will be spread across three distinct areas. Events like curling, figure skating, ice hockey and speed skating will take place in the city center, including several venues that were used during the 2008 Summer Olympics. Sliding sports and alpine skiing will be held about an hour northwest of the city, in the district of Yanqing. And the remaining sports, including snowboarding, will take place in the neighboring city of Zhangjiakou, which is an hour farther in the same direction.
• Because of Covid-19, none of the usual test events will take place prior to the Games. So skiers will not be able to ski the course before they get out there for their event.
• A record 109 events are scheduled to take place. Seven new events include men’s and women’s big air freestyle, women’s monobob (or single person bobsled), mixed team competitions in freestyle skiing aerials, ski jumping, and snowboard cross, and a mixed relay in short track speed skating.
• Beijing will boast the highest number of women’s events ever, with the addition of two women’s events and four mixed-team events. This will increase the percentage of women’s events in the Olympic program to 47 percent.
• The US Team is made up of 223 people, including four athletes making their fifth trip to the Games: Shaun White and Lindsey Jacobellis in snowboarding, Katie Uhlaender in skeleton, and John Shuster in curling
• The mascot for Beijing’s games is a panda named Bing Dwen Dwen. In Mandarin Chinese (the official dialect of China), “Bing” has several meanings, though the most common is ice. The word also symbolises purity and strength, while “Dwen Dwen” means robust and lively, and also represents children.
• There’s a 13 hour time difference between Beijing and the Eastern Time Zone, 16 hours between Beijing and Pacific Time.
• Peacock will be the streaming home of the Beijing Winter Games, offering live stream coverage of every single event. Viewers can also tune to NBC, USA, and CNBC to watch the Games. Streaming will also be available via NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app.
So there you have it. Now you can impress your friends and family when you’re all gathered around the tube watching the Olympics. Have some other tidbit you’d like to share? Post it here. That way we can all benefit.