Winter Olympics: Everything to know ahead of the Games in Beijing

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The 2022 Winter Olympics is now right on our doorsteps, getting underway on Wednesday February 2. 

After the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo was pushed back by a year due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the Winter Games is now set to take place just six months later, yet again with a number of restrictions applying. 

The Games will be held in Beijing, meaning China will become the first ever country to host both the Summer and Winter editions of the Olympics. They first held the summer Games back in 2008.  

The Toyko Games was held behind closed doors and there will once again be a total absence of foreign-based fans at the events, while tickets will not be on general sale after China recently registered their first locally transmitted case of the Omicron variant. 

Organisers have stressed preparations are very much on track, however, with Team GB targeting a record-breaking medal tally in February, after claiming five in both 2014 and 2018.  

With what is set to be an intriguing Games swiftly approaching, Sportsmail takes you through everything you need to know. 

The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing is set to take place over a fortnight in February

The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing is set to take place over a fortnight in February

When is the Winter Olympics taking place? 

The start of the Winter Olympics in Beijing is officially marked by the Opening Ceremony on Friday February 4.

A number of events will have already started, however, with the curling getting the Games underway on Wednesday February 2, while freestyle skiing and ice hockey get going a day later.

The Winter Games, which like the Summer Games occurs every four years, will last for 16 days, coming to a conclusion on Sunday February 20.

It takes place just six months after the summer edition in Tokyo, where Team GB claimed 22 gold medals and finished fourth in the medals table.

Why has the Winter Olympics gone to Beijing? 

Beijing was selected as the 2022 Winter Olympics host city back in 2015, with China’s capital seeing off competition from Oslo, Norway (who withdrew their bid due to a lack of funds) and Almaty in Kazakhstan.

The city will become the first ever to have hosted both the Summer and Winter Games, having memorably held the Olympics back in 2008.

It was certainly a close contest between Beijing (44 votes) and Almaty (40 votes), with just four votes separating the two in a process undertaken at the 128th IOC Session in Kuala Lumpur.

The 2022 Winter Paralympics will also take place in Beijing, starting on March 4.

There is controversy in abundance over China’s £2.5billion Games, however, both due to the host’s human-rights record and the climate.

The National Ski Jumping Centre is built onto a barren landscape of dirty brown hills

The National Ski Jumping Centre is built onto a barren landscape of dirty brown hills

Starting with the climate, we aren’t exactly expecting a blizzard in Beijing. In fact, between January and March 2021 both London and Madrid experienced more then the 2cm of snow that fell in the Chinese capital.

A snow gun works its magic at Genting Snow Park in preparation for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics at venues in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province

A snow gun works its magic at Genting Snow Park in preparation for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics at venues in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province

And while aesthetically pleasing and architecturally mightily impressive, the new National Ski-jumping Centre sits atop a muddy hill, while the snowboarding slope lies within the city’s industrial area.

For context, artificial snow is nothing new at the Winter Olympics; the athletes have seen it all before. With regular water shortages in China, however, the 49million gallons required to make the artificial snow in Beijing is certainly enough to raise a few eyebrows, to say the least.

A bigger concern, however, is the potential ramifications should an athlete look to speak out against China’s human-rights record, which has led to diplomatic boycotts by both Britain and the US. 

What exactly are the human rights issues?

The IOC have been criticised by many for awarding China the 2022 Winter Olympics, which, as stated, will see the country go down in history as the first-ever to host a Summer and Winter Games.

The likes of Britain, Canada, Australia, the United States and Japan have all announced diplomatic boycotts of the Games.

The athletes are still able to attend and compete, a prospect many, including NBA player Enes Kanter, have argued against, but the boycotts are a pertinent mark against the host nations nonetheless.

In its annual report, the Human Rights Watch insisted China is in its ‘darkest period for human rights’ since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. They cited the arbitrary detainment, forced labour, mass surveillance and political indoctrination of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang.

They also cited both the decision to replace Mongolian with Chinese Mandarin in Inner Mongolian schools and the restriction of religious freedom in Tibet.

The United States in 2021 accused China of committing genocide against Uighurs and other mainly Muslim peoples, which China subsequently strongly denied.

There have been numerous protests and calls for the Beijing 2022 Games to be boycotted

There have been numerous protests and calls for the Beijing 2022 Games to be boycotted

Mystery remains about the whereabouts of former Grand Slam champion Peng Shuai

Mystery remains about the whereabouts of former Grand Slam champion Peng Shuai

International relations became even more strained after tennis player Peng Shuai accused Zhang Gaoli – China’s former vice-premier – of sexual assault, since all-but disappearing, seen only a few occasions in seemingly staged public appearances. 

Her initial social media post where she detailed the allegation on Chinese website Weibo was also deleted.

The WTA subsequently announced an ‘immediate suspension of all tournaments in China’, while a number of players, including Naomi Osaka, remain concerned.

The Human Rights Watch panel also recently warned during a seminar that athletes, journalists, essentially anyone travelling to China for the Games, will be under ‘Orwellian’ levels of surveillance by the Chinese state.

The Watch has been overtly critical of the Games as a whole, branding it a ‘sportswashing’ exercise aiming to conceal the country’s ‘abysmal human rights’ record.

Will fans be able to attend the Games? 

Unfortunately, with Beijing exhibiting its first locally transmitted Omicron case just a matter of days ago, it has now been confirmed that there won’t be a general sale of tickets.   

The International Olympic Committee had been lobbying to get domestic fans into the Games, after the Summer tournament was held behind closed doors, with ticket sales to foreign-based spectators already ruled out.

Instead, there are plans for an ‘adapted programme that will invite groups of spectators to be present on site during the Games’.

Tickets for the Beijing 2022 Winter Games will not be made available to the general public

Tickets for the Beijing 2022 Winter Games will not be made available to the general public

Event organisers confirmed that tickets will be sold to targeted groups amid coronavirus

Event organisers confirmed that tickets will be sold to targeted groups amid coronavirus

A Beijing 2022 statement said: ‘Given the current grave and complicated situation of the COVID-19 pandemic and to ensure the safety of all participants and spectators, it was decided that tickets should not be sold anymore but be part of an adapted programme that will invite groups of spectators to be present on site during the Games.

‘The organisers expect that these spectators will strictly abide by the COVID-19 countermeasures before, during and after each event as pre-conditions for the safe and sound delivery of the Games.’

What are the rules for athletes? 

Vaccination rules have been at the forefront of sport in recent weeks, with world No 1 tennis star Novak Djokovic deported after arriving in Australia to compete in the first Grand Slam of the year, having opted against receiving a Covid-19 jab. 

They will also be a prevalent factor at the Winter Olympics, with Chinese authorities bringing in tougher measures for officials, athletes and the teams flying in from around the world. 

A total of six cities, housing 20 million people, are currently in lockdown.

While athletes did not have to be vaccinated for the Tokyo Olympics six months ago, the rules are slightly different this time round. 

Unvaccinated athletes will not be allowed into the Olympic Village or Games venues and will have to quarantine for 21 days on their arrival. Athletes who can provide a justified medical exemption will have their cases considered. Those who are vaccinated will be allowed in those areas and won’t have to quarantine. 

Regardless of vaccination status, each and every athlete will be tested at the airport on arrival, while they will undergo routine daily testing throughout the duration of the Games. 

However, they will only be able to move between Games-related venues for training, competitions and work throughout, with a dedicated transport system put in place.  

Everyone present will have to wear masks when they are not competing or training.  

What are the venues?

The venues for the Games have been divided into three zones, being Beijing, Yanqing and Zhangjiakou, with a mixture of pre-built and newly-built arenas to be in use. 

Organisers have revealed that each venue will run entirely on renewable energy.

The Beijing Zone

We start with the Beijing zone, which will host both the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, as well as ice sports throughout the Games.

There are seven stadiums within the zone, including The National Stadium, also known as ‘The Bird’s Nest’ due to its distinctive design, which is where both ceremonies will take place. No sporting events will be undertaken in the stadium.

The National Aquatics Centre was a venue used during the 2008 Games and was nicknamed ‘The Water Cube’ after hosting a variety of swimming and diving formats. It has since been revamped into ‘The Ice Cube’ and will host curling and wheelchair curling in the Paralympic Games.

The National Indoor Stadium, where rhythmic gymnastics, trampoline and handball took place in 2008, will – alongside the Wukesong Sports Centre – host the ice hockey competition this year. The Wukesong Sports Centre was used for Basketball 14 years ago.

The National Stadium in the Beijing Zone will host both the Opening and Closing Ceremonies

The National Stadium in the Beijing Zone will host both the Opening and Closing Ceremonies

Big Air Shougang has been built as the world's first permanent venue for Big Air events

Big Air Shougang has been built as the world’s first permanent venue for Big Air events

The National Speed Skating Oval is the first new-build in the Beijing Zone, though it has been built on top of the Olympic Park used in 2008. It will host the speed skating format in February.

Moving on, we have the Capital Indoor Stadium, which hosted volleyball in 2008. It will now stage the figure skating and short track speed skating competitions during the Games.

Finally, there is Big Air Shougang, the world’s first permanent venue for Big Air, which has been built specifically for the 2022 Winter Games. It will host the freestyle skiing and snowboard Big Air competitions. 

As with the remaining two zones, there will be an Olympic Village which will house the athletes during their stay. The Beijing village, which has 2,300 beds available, will host those competing in ice sports. 

The Yanqing Zone

Next up we have the Yanqing Zone, which will host the alpine skiing and all three sliding events, being the bobsleigh, luge and skeleton. 

The zone is located 75km outside of Beijing’s city centre and will house two venues for February’s Winter Games.  

The first is the National Sliding Centre which, unsurprisingly, will stage the sliding events. The centre holds a total capacity of 10,000, though just how full it will be remains to be seen. 

The National Alpine Ski Centre will hold all 11 Alpine skiing events at the 2022 Winter Olympics

The National Alpine Ski Centre will hold all 11 Alpine skiing events at the 2022 Winter Olympics

The zone also houses the National Alpine Ski Centre, which will stage the alpine skiing events both in the Olympic and Paralympic competitions. 

The centre is based in the Xiaohaituo Mountain Area in northwest Yanqing and has a total capacity of 8,500. There are a total of seven courses in the centre, with a staggering 900m drop the most notable of the bunch. 

The Yanqing Winter Olympic Village will house a maximum of 1,430 athletes and officials throughout the Games.   

The Zhangjiakou Zone

Finally, we have the Zhangjiakou Zone, which will host the bulk of the ski and snowboarding events in February. 

There are four venues within the zone, the first being the National Biathlon Centre, which will host the Biathlon in the Winter Games and both the biathlon and cross-country skiing at the Paralympic Games.    

The National Biathlon Centre has been built specifically for the 2022 Winter Olympics

The National Biathlon Centre has been built specifically for the 2022 Winter Olympics

The National Ski Jumping Centre will host both the ski jumping competition and the ski jumping section of the Nordic combined competition.  

The newly-built National Cross-Country Centre will stage the cross-country and Nordic combined events, while the Genting Snow Park will hold the freestyle skiing and snowboarding events, aside from the Big Air format. 

The Olympic Village will house a maximum of 2,640 athletes and officials throughout the Games.   

What is the mascot?

The mascot for the 2022 Winter Games is Bing Dwen Dwen, which, according to the Olympics website, ’embodies the strength and willpower of athletes and will help to promote the Olympic spirit’. The word ‘bing’ means ice in Mandarin Chinese, while ‘dwen dwen’ represents children.

Bing Dwen Dwen is a panda, China’s national animal, which sports a full-body shell made of ice. This has two purposes: first, as a token of embracing new technologies, and second, to help the panda ski, skate and snowboard.

Bing Dwen Dwen (right) is the Winter Olympics mascot and is a panda - China's national animal - while Shuey Rhon Rhon (left) is the mascot for the Paralympics

Bing Dwen Dwen (right) is the Winter Olympics mascot and is a panda – China’s national animal – while Shuey Rhon Rhon (left) is the mascot for the Paralympics

You can see a heart on Bing Dwen Dwen’s left palm, which is there to show China’s hospitality for athletes and spectators – the few who are there, anyway.

Meanwhile, the halo around its face symbolises the technological advancements exhibited in the ice and snow sport tracks. The design was chosen by over 5,800 submissions from both China and 35 countries across the globe.

Shuey Rhon Rhon, a Chinese lantern child, will be the mascot for the Paralympics.

What are the 2022 events? 

A total of 15 sporting disciplines will take place throughout the Games, with varying numbers of events in each.  

A number of disciplines fall into the same sporting category, for example there will be alpine, cross-country and ski jumping among the skiing events.  

  • Alpine skiing (11 events, from Feb 6-19)
  • Biathlon (11 events, from Feb 5-19)
  • Bobsleigh (four events, from Feb 13-20)
  • Cross-country skiing (12 events, from Feb 5-20)
  • Curling (three events, from Feb 2-20)
  • Figure skating (five events, from Feb 4-20)
  • Freestyle skiing (13 events, from Feb 3-19)
  • Ice hockey (two events, from Feb 3-20)
  • Luge (four events, from Feb 5-10)
  • Nordic combined (three events, from Feb 9-17)
  • Short track speed skating (nine events, from Feb 5-16)
  • Skeleton (two events, from Feb 10-12)
  • Ski jumping (five events, from Feb 5-14)
  • Snowboarding (11 events, from Feb 15-15)
  • Speed skating (14 events, from Feb 5-19)

What are the new disciplines being introduced?

There are seven new disciplines being added to the 2022 Games schedule, done so to achieve two primary objectives: to increase the interest among younger audiences and increase female participation.

The additions, which we will breakdown in detail below, have raised the female athlete participation to 45.44 per cent, higher than in any Winter Games in history.  

Bobsleigh: Women’s Monobob

First up is the Women’s Monobob, which is an individual bobsleigh event exclusive only to female athletes. 

The Women's Monobob will make its debut in February at the Winter Olympics in Beijing

The Women’s Monobob will make its debut in February at the Winter Olympics in Beijing

The male athletes previously had the four-man and two-man formats, and still do, while the female athletes previously had only the two-woman competition.

The monobob has been used in the Winter Youth Olympic Games both in 2016 and 2020, though with both men and women competing.   

While the objective remains the same, there are some drastic differences. Primarily, of course, there is just one person controlling the sled, meaning the individual is in charge of pushing, driving and breaking, roles which are typically split.  

Additionally, the athletes will compete in standardised sleds, meaning differences due to technological advantages among wealthier nations will be entirely eradicated.

Freestyle Skiing: Mixed Team Aerials

The skiers look to impress the judges with their mid-air tricks

The skiers look to impress the judges with their mid-air tricks

The Mixed Team Aerials are one of two additions to the Freestyle Skiing schedule at the Winter Olympics. 

The Men’s and Women’s Aerials will once again also take place, whereby two men and two women perform in-air tricks as they look to impress a group of judges. 

In the new format, there will be a mix of male and female athletes in the teams, which can be either two women and a man or two men and a woman.   

Freestyle Skiing: Men’s and Women’s Big Air 

The Big Air format will now be used in skiing as well as snowboarding

The Big Air format will now be used in skiing as well as snowboarding

The Big Air format was first introduced to the Winter Games schedule in 2018, though exclusively in the snowboarding competition. 

Now, there will also be a version on a pair of skis, in a freestyle format. The athletes will have three attempts at one jump off a 60ft ramp, where they will look to impress the judges based on the number of rotations, flips and grabs completed while in the air.  

They will also be judged on how well they stick the landing, with the best two scores added together to determine a final ranking.    

Short-track Speedskating: Mixed Team Relay

The Mixed Team Relay format has been added to the schedule this year

The Mixed Team Relay format has been added to the schedule this year

There is a new addition to Short-track Speedskating, being the Mixed Team Relay. 

Unlike other skating competitions taking place at the Games, short-track speedskating sees athletes competing directly against each other, rather than against a clock. 

Two women and two men will combine to cover 18 laps of a 2,000m race, with each skater racing twice. It will go in a order of: woman-woman-man-man-woman-woman-man-man.     

Ski Jumping: Mixed Team Event 

Zhangjiakou's National Ski Jumping Centre funnels straight into a 10,000-seat stadium

Zhangjiakou’s National Ski Jumping Centre funnels straight into a 10,000-seat stadium

Similarly to other mixed events, there will be two men and two women making up a four-athlete team. 

It will take place on the ‘normal hill’, following a woman-man-woman-man sequence and will be scored based on the distance travelled and the style of the jump. 

As in the men’s and women’s formats, there will be two rounds of competition. The best eight teams in the first round will advance to the second.   

Snowboarding: Mixed Team Snowboard Cross 

Finally, we have the Mixed Team Snowboard Cross, which will be an enthralling race to the finish line.

The Genting Snow Park will hold all snowboarding events other than the Big Air

The Genting Snow Park will hold all snowboarding events other than the Big Air

Each team, of which there will be a maximum of 16, will be comprised by one man and one woman, with the man taking to the snow first.  

The female athletes will then start their runs in a staggered format, with time advantages or disadvantages based on their team-mate’s time. The first female athlete to cross the line will win the race. 

There will be four heats, with the best two teams from each advancing to the semi-finals. The top two teams from each semi-final will progress to the final. 

Who are the British athletes to look out for? 

Team GB have revealed they are targeting between three and seven medals at the Games, which could see them eclipse the record of five set at the past two Winter Olympics. 

In the previous 23 Games combined, Britain has amassed just 32 medals in total. They have been involved in each and every Games since its inception in 1924. 

Team GB are expected to take around 50 athletes to the Games, with hopes of a record-breaking fortnight. 

One athlete who was set to receive attention in abundance was Greg Rutherford, who has swapped long jump for the bobsleigh, but his hopes of qualifying disappeared after his four-man team finished 19th in the final World Cup event of the season last week.  

There are plenty of athletes to look out for, however, including Charlotte Bankes, who comes into the Games full of confidence having won the snowboard cross gold medal at the World Championships last year.

She also claimed gold at the World Cup event in Russia, her second triumph of the season, adding to her victory in Austria in December. Bankes actually represented France in 2014 and 2018 but has switched to Team GB, having been born in England.   

Charlotte Bankes will represent Team GB, having competed for France in 2014 and 2018

Charlotte Bankes will represent Team GB, having competed for France in 2014 and 2018

Bruce Mouat (left) and Jen Dodds (right) are the reigning curling Mixed Team world champions

Bruce Mouat (left) and Jen Dodds (right) are the reigning curling Mixed Team world champions

Another athlete to look out for is Katie Ormerod, who is, hopefully, finally set to achieve her dream of competing in the Winter Olympics. 

The snowboarder was one of Britain’s primary gold medal hopes heading into the 2018 Games but, having already broken her wrist on the first training day – and opting to continue, she then suffered a broken heel just one day before the Opening Ceremony and missed out. 

She has required seven operations since but has risen to the top of the sport once more and could well medal next month.  

Bruce Mouat and Jennifer Dodds will make history in February, becoming the first British athletes to compete in two curling competitions at a Winter Games. They will compete in the men’s and women’s events respectively and will partner up for the mixed event. The Scottish duo were crowned world champions last year.

Next up is Kirsty Muir, who will be competing in her first Olympics at just 17 years old. She will be competing in the freestyle skiing competition, having picked up a pair of skis at the age of just three. 

Muir already has silver medals in the Youth Olympics and World Championships and is certainly one to look out for.   

How do I watch the Games on TV? 

Following the Summer Games in Tokyo, the Winter Games television coverage will once again be split between BBC and Eurosport, for those in the UK.

The BBC will provide over 300 hours of live coverage throughout the competition, with programming running from 6am to 12pm across BBC One and Two, alongside highlights and replays.

They will also have a distinct livestream available on BBC iPlayer and the red button.

Alternatively, coverage will be available through Eurosport, both via their app or Discovery+. A Eurosport online subscription is available for £6.99 per month, while it’s also available on Amazon Prime, which costs £7.99 a month.

Eurosport, if it’s provided in your package, is also available on Sky, Virgin or BT.

Who won the 2018 Games?  

The 2018 Winter Olympics, where 92 nations competed in 102 medal events, was held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and it was Norway who came out on top of the medal table after 19 days of action. 

The winter specialists claimed a total of 39 medals, 14 of which were gold, with a further 14 silvers 11 bronzes. 

In second place was Germany with 31 medals, while Canada came in third with 29 medals. Equalling their tally from the 2014 Games in Sochi, Team GB once again left with five medals, including one gold.

Full schedule 

As stated, the first event at the Winter Olympics, curling, gets underway on February 2, with the Opening Ceremony on February 4. The Games will then come to an end on February 20. 

The first event, curling, takes place on February 2, with the Games ending on February 20

The first event, curling, takes place on February 2, with the Games ending on February 20

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