The Beijing Winter Olympics begin on February 4.
It is extremely regrettable that political issues such as human rights violations in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region by the Chinese government and the exclusion of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong have cast a shadow over the winter celebration.
Three athletes’ villages, including one in central Beijing, have already opened, and most of the Japanese athletes have arrived as well.
It is the athletes that should receive the most attention in any year of the Olympic Games. We hope that the 120-plus Japanese national team athletes will brighten up the Winter Games through their inspiring performances.
At the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, the Japanese team won 13 medals, including four gold medals, the most won in the history of the Winter Olympics for Japan. It is still fresh in our memory that the Japanese national team gained great momentum for the Tokyo Olympics there.
The Beijing Games will be an exceptional Winter Olympics, held only half a year after the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. The success of the Japanese national team in Tokyo provides a valuable reminder of the variety of people who can still be brought together through sports. We hope to experience the same excitement as we did during Tokyo 2020 through the brilliant performances of the Japanese athletes.
The stage is set for all the stars. In men’s figure skating, Yuzuru Hanyu is eyeing his third consecutive Olympic title. Miho Takagi, the captain of the Japanese national team and a female speed skater, is expected to win gold medals in multiple events. Good results from Beijing will surely be welcome in Japan, where the stagnation of the “sixth wave” of the COVID-19 pandemic fills the air around the country.
Global warming, too, is casting its own shadow over the Winter Olympics. The Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games and the Chinese media have repeatedly promoted and praised themselves, stating that Beijing will be the first city in history to hold both the Summer and Winter Olympics.
In reality, Yanqing District in Beijing, where the Alpine skiing events take place, has less snowfall in winter than London or Paris. The competition’s venues will be dependent on artificial snow, but as it requires the use of large amounts of water, there are concerns about the burden on the environment. Such methods cannot set an example for a sustainable future Winter Olympics.
International research groups such as the University of Waterloo in Canada recently released findings that cannot be overlooked. If greenhouse gas emissions continue, of the 21 cities that have held the Winter Olympics so far, including Beijing, only Sapporo will be able to hold the Winter Games again in a "fair and safe situation" by the end of this century.
Indeed, Sapporo has expressed interest in bidding for the 2030 Games.
How can we protect both the environment and the torch of the Winter Olympics? We must learn from the situation in Beijing and use those lessons to provide clear guidelines for the world.
(Read the editorial in Japanese at this link.)
Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun