Cover People walk by ice sculptures featuring Beijing 2022 mascots Bing Dwen Dwen and Shuey Rhon Rhon. (Photo: Getty Images)

North Korea has just announced that they will not be attending the games. Here's why

This story was first published on January 5, 2022, and updated on January 10, 2022. 

It’s been about six months since the conclusion of the Tokyo Olympic Games on August 8, 2021, and as the new year begins, it is officially time to start warming up for the Winter Olympic Games which will be taking place in China this year. 

With 15 different sports, three different locations, a variety of strict Covid-19 precautions and certain countries boycotting the events, the Winter Olympic Games is set to be an incredibly exciting one. 

Keep reading to find out everything you could possibly want to know about the upcoming games. 

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1. When and where will the games take place?

The Winter Olympics 2022 will be taking place from February 4 to February 20. 

It will be held in China and across three different regions, namely, Beijing, Yanqing, and Zhangjiakou.

The ice sports, as well as certain snow events, will be held in central Beijing—which will also host the opening and closing ceremonies. 

Yanqing, which is a mountainous suburb of China’s capital, will host the Alpine skiing and sliding events. It will also host the Olympic Athletes’ village.

Zhangjiakou, which is located about 180 kilometres northwest of Beijing, will be the location for the majority of skiing and snowboarding events. 

2. What sports will we see at the Olympics?

There will be a total of 15 sports and 109 medal events during the games. These will be:

  1. Alpine Skiing
  2. Biathlon
  3. Bobsled
  4. Cross-Country Skiing
  5. Curling
  6. Figure Skating
  7. Freestyle Skiing
  8. Hockey
  9. Luge
  10. Nordic Combined
  11. Short Track
  12. Skeleton
  13. Ski Jumping
  14. Snowboarding
  15. Speed Skating

The Olympics will also see seven brand new events:

  1. Women’s Monobob
  2. Men’s Big Air (Freestyle Skiing)
  3. Women’s Big Air (Freestyle Skiing)
  4. Mixed Team Snowboard Cross
  5. Mixed Team Aerials
  6. Mixed Team Short Track Relay
  7. Mixed Team Ski Jumping

3. Will there be a theme?

Above 2022 Beijing Olympic Games: "Together for a Shared Future"

This year, the motto for both the Beijing 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games is “Together for a Shared Future” and the music video that accompanies it reflects this. 

The music video, which was released late last year, stars Chinese singer and actor Jackson Yee. It also showcases important aspects of the games such as the mascots, Bing Dwen Dwen and Shuey Rhon Rhon, the Olympic flame as well as fans from China. 

The video largely aims to highlight the lives of ordinary people who have contributed to the games. For example, we see individuals who designed Team China’s uniforms, traffic conductors, seal carvers and more. 

4. Who will oversee the opening and closing ceremonies?

On January 7, it was announced by state media that internationally acclaimed Chinese film director Zhang Yimou will oversee the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.

Zhang has directed hit movies such as Raise the Red Lantern, Hero, The House of Flying Daggers and more and will be leading the team that will design the show. 

The show will be significantly scaled-down due to Covid-19 and will use technology heavily to create a fantastic show. 

The program is designed to show the beauty of nature, humanity and sport, and also to inspire confidence in a pandemic ravaged world, according to Zhang in an interview on state television. 

This is also not Zhang’s first foray into the Olympics after he directed the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games is set to take place on February 4.

5. How badly have the Olympics been affected by the Omicron variant?

While the Olympics may seem like it’s progressing without a hitch, the ongoing pandemic is still of concern. In particular, the new Omicron variant is a significant threat to the games. 

In an attempt to ensure that the games remain safe, the organisers have created what they call a “closed-loop management system” which is essentially a bubble-like environment that all participants will be in. 

All athletes, officials, broadcasters, journalists and staff will need to eat, sleep, work and compete without leaving this bubble from the day they arrive till their departure. 

They will also need to be vaccinated or serve a 21-day quarantine before they will be allowed to join the bubble, which started last week as staff began arriving in China.

They will have no direct physical access to the outside world during this time and will even have dedicated transport between venues. 

Of course, the highly infectious Omicron variant is set to put the bubble to the test. 

With over 2,000 international athletes set to visit China for the games as well as about 25,000 other stakeholders, the organisers may find that the closed-loop is more difficult to manage than previously expected.

That said, restrictions at the game venues will be very tight and the closed-loop will continue to be rigidly enforced so there is still hope that everything will go as planned. 

On December 30, 2021, Yan Jiarong, a spokesperson for the Olympics organising committee said they believe that they “can ensure the Winter Olympic Games and the Winter Paralympic Games can be held safely and on schedule.”

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6. Why are some governments boycotting the games?

While the games are an exciting and prestigious event, unfortunately, this year, it has been plagued by a number of diplomatic boycotts from countries such as the United States, Australia, Canada and Britain. This is because of the widespread allegations of Chinese atrocities against the Uyghur community there. 

For months now, human rights groups and Western governments have been accusing China of genocide in the Xinjiang region. China denied these allegations and claimed that their detention camps there are for the re-education of the Uyghurs and other Muslims.

However, human rights groups are saying that there is evidence that Uyghurs are being used as forced labour and that women are being forcibly sterilised. There is also evidence of torture and sexual abuse. 

In an attempt to show disapproval of this, these Western governments have said that their representatives will not attend. However, their athletes are still free to compete. 

7. Why is North Korea not attending the games?

While many governments around the world are choosing to not attend the games on humanitarian grounds, North Korea’s state media announced on January 7 in a letter to China that they would not be attending the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing due to Covid-19 risks as well as “hostile forces”.

"We could not take part in the Olympics due to the hostile forces’ moves and the worldwide pandemic, but we would fully support the Chinese comrades in all their work to hold splendid and wonderful Olympic festival," the letter said according to state news agency KCNA.

That said, it is not clear if the letter from North Korea’s Olympic Committee and sports ministry was referring only to the attendance of its athletes or its diplomatic delegation as well, of which no mention was made. 

Currently, North Korea’s athletes cannot compete in the Olympics after they were suspended from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) till the end of 2022 for not sending a team to the Tokyo Olympics last year.

The country has also maintained a strict self-imposed border lockdown which has blocked even its own diplomats from entering the country. The border lockdown has also impacted trade significantly.  

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