The 2022 Winter Olympics Recap


Isabel Rettino and Brandy Brennan, Managing Editor and Copy Editor

With the recent end to the Beijing Winter Olympics, it is difficult to ignore all that was being accomplished when dealing with the current global pandemic. Spectators may have noticed differences such as seeing no spectators present in the stadium and athletes wearing masks. This was the first winter Olympics in history to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many did not expect the virus to impact our everyday lives even two years later, making it unimaginable. This was no different for the Olympics. China, the hosting country, implemented several measures to limit the spread of COVID by testing, limiting contact, and controlling the iconic Olympic village. 

The first question that came to mind for most is whether or not participants need to be vaccinated. The short answer is no. While it was strongly encouraged, it was not required for all participants. However, individuals who decided against vaccinating were required to stay in a 21-day isolation after arriving in Beijing. No matter one’s vaccination status, PCR tests were also required 24-96 hours after arriving in Beijing. 

Athletes and coaches underwent screenings and testing daily. If someone were to have tested positive while at the Olympics, they were immediately removed from their primary hotel and their sport. They were then taken to a different hotel to quarantine. While in this quarantine, they are tested twice a day and are only allowed to leave isolation after showing proof of a negative test along with exhibiting no symptoms. 

Dr. Brian McCloskey, chair of the Olympics medical expert panel, said  the goal for the Olympics is “zero spread,” not “zero cases.” This is a realistic approach because there is no guarantee that there will be no cases during the month-long event. 

So, how did the Olympians keep their distance from each other in contact sports? It wasn’t very easy, especially in sports such as Hockey. This  is one reason that regular COVID testing was essential, in order to ensure that all players are safe and healthy to participate. Not to say that there are never false negatives, but at the time, it was the most reliable way to check. Transportation to these events was contained to the athletes and their team to make contact tracing easier. In the events, viewers were minimal to instill more precaution. Food at the Olympic village was also very organized. 

Distancing protocols included distanced assembly lines and plaster wall dividers at every table. Also, people had to stay 6-ft apart, avoid hugs/handshakes, and have to be wearing masks at all times. ABC News quoted the Playbook, which stated masks must be worn except “when training, competing, eating, drinking, sleeping, when alone, or during interviews, stand-ups and live presentations.” The majority of the time, people are masked up! 

In addition to complications due to COVID-19, many athletes in the 2022 Winter Olympics struggled with current global and political tensions. These political tensions began back in December, when there was a boycott announced against the Beijing Olympics, protesting China’s treatment of a Muslim minority group, Uyghur,  that is native to Xinjiang. This has caused some to refer to this years Olympics as the “Genocide Olympics.” 

These tensions against China arose again during the opening ceremony. Dinigeer Yilamujiang, an Uyghur cross country skier, was chosen to light the cauldron, and China said that it was in hopes to have her represent minorities. Other countries’ officials, including the United States, believed that this statement was in fact not positive, but a way for the Chinese government to show off their “crimes against humanity.”

Athletes were further advised by advocates not to comment on politics or human rights while in China for their own safety. Some even went as far as getting burner cellphones to communicate as well as to avoid data and surveillance theft. Chinese media warned commentators to watch out for US tactics, after accusing the United States of paying athletes to disrupt the Games. The tightly controlled atmosphere of this year’s Olympic games, partially due to COVID, caused it to be muted and cut off, worsening these tensions.  

Furthermore, China threatened to punish any athletes that “protest or speak in a way that is offensive to Chinese law and the Chinese government.” This includes, but is not limited to, political debate. Finish skier, Katri Lylypera, recently shared footage of the Finnish team’s hotel, which is completely flooded out. She was later ordered by Chinese authorities to remove these posts, and discussed silencing her, revealed in leaked WhatsApp messages, after the flood. 

This issue arose after many athletes were isolated in quarantine hotels, where many complaints were made. Russian Biathlon competitor Valeria Vasnetsov has taken to Instagram to share her concerns about the food. It is plain, minimal, and repetitive. This is not good in any circumstances, but especially for Olympic athletes. She said to her, ​​”My stomach hurts, I’m very pale, and I have huge black circles around my eyes… I want all this to end. I cry every day. I’m very tired.” Valeria expresses the difficulties of eating in isolation. Many competitors have shared complaints of feeling weak and out of shape by the time they were released to compete. Although not necessarily political, this news added fuel to the fire of political and global tensions during this year’s Winter Olympics. Despite the heavy controversy surrounding the Winter Olympics this year, it was still able to be successful. 

If you would like to learn more about the 2022 Winter Olympics feel free to listen to our podcast!