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2022 Beijing Winter Olympics: Answers to Some Big Questions

The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing are right around the corner, with all kinds of questions — about international politics, public health and, yes, even sports — hanging over them.

So here’s what we know so far.

When are the Beijing Olympics?

The opening ceremony is scheduled for Feb. 4, a Friday, though some preliminary events will be held in the days before. The closing ceremony is Feb. 20, a Sunday. In all, there will be 19 days of competition across 15 sports.

This year’s Paralympics, also based in Beijing, are scheduled for March 4 to 13.

Is there any chance the Games could be delayed, or even canceled, because of the pandemic?

Anything is possible, but the International Olympic Committee and Olympic organizers in Beijing have gone out of their way to emphasize that the Games will go on as planned. Asked in early December whether he could envision a situation in which the Games had to be postponed, Juan Antonio Samaranch, a top Olympic official, was blunt. “The answer is no,” he said. “In a Covid world, you have to be flexible, and you have to be able to adapt rapidly to changing conditions. We have that in Beijing.”

How will they deal with the coronavirus?

Staff members inside the Olympic “bubble” in Beijing.Credit…Thomas Peter/Reuters

The protocols will be similar to those at the Tokyo Olympics last summer, but more stringent. Organizers are creating what they’re calling a “closed-loop system” — also known as a bubble — in which thousands of athletes, coaches, team officials, Olympic staff members, contractors, volunteers and journalists will be confined for the duration of the Games. The bubble will include competition sites, hotels and other lodging for athletes, media facilities and a transportation network. No one else goes in; no one comes out.

Everybody at the Olympics will be required to be vaccinated. (Medical exemptions are available, but anyone who gets one will have to quarantine for an impractical 21 days before competing.) And once there, everyone will be tested every day.

Weren’t the Summer Olympics held in Beijing in 2008? Why is China hosting another Games?

Beijing’s National Stadium, also known as the Bird’s Nest, was built for the 2008 Summer Olympics. It will host the opening and closing ceremonies for the Winter Games.Credit…Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

A lot of countries, initially, had raised their hands to host the 2022 Games. But over time, one by one, they dropped out — countries like Norway, Sweden, Poland, Ukraine, Switzerland, Germany — in many cases citing the high cost of hosting the Olympics and a lack of popular support back home.

Eventually, China and Kazakhstan were the only two bidders left. Beijing won by four votes. The host selection process was deemed such a disaster that the I.O.C. went on to scrap it. Host cities are now selected through a closed-door process.

Will any countries boycott the Games?

China’s record on human rights, including the abuse of Uyghur Muslims in the country’s Xinjiang region and the suppression of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, has led activists around the world to call for countries and sponsors to boycott the Beijing Games.

Get Ready for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics

Just a few months after Tokyo, the Olympics will start again in Beijing on Feb. 4. Here is what you need to know:

  • A Guide to the Sports: From speedskating to monobob, here’s a look at every sport that will be contested at the 2022 Winter Games.
  • Diplomatic Boycott: The U.S. and several other countries will not send government officials to Beijing, protesting China’s human rights abuses.
  • Covid Preparations: China is tightening restrictions, including plans for a “closed-loop” bubble. And N.H.L. players won’t participate after all.
  • The Fashion Race: Canada partnered with Lululemon for its Olympic kit, and a Black-owned athleisure brand will outfit Team Nigeria.

The calls intensified in November with the disappearance from public life of Peng Shuai, a Chinese tennis player and three-time Olympian, after she accused a former top government official of sexual assault.

But the possibility that any country boycotts the Beijing Olympics outright — that is, refuses to send its athletes to compete — feels remote. Instead, several countries, including the United States, Australia, Britain and Canada, have announced a “diplomatic boycott” of the Games, meaning their government officials will not attend any ceremonies or events.

“We will not be contributing to the fanfare of the Games,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said about the decision.

What will happen if an athlete stages a protest — about human rights or anything else — during the Olympics?

Demonstrating against the Beijing Olympics in Berlin.Credit…Filip Singer/EPA, via Shutterstock

“That is a hypothetical question,” an I.O.C. spokesman, Mark Adams, said when asked that question in early December, pointing out that athletes could express personal views in interviews during the Games and on social media.

The I.O.C. loosened its rules around protests and political displays before the Tokyo Olympics last summer, allowing athletes to make symbolic gestures — raising a fist or taking a knee, for example — in the arenas before their competitions. (Protesting during medal ceremonies is still not allowed.)

But it remains to be seen what would happen if an athlete were to criticize, say, the Chinese government explicitly during the Games. “I think we have to wait for concrete examples,” Adams said.

Will fans be allowed to attend the events?

Most likely yes, but only in a limited capacity. Though fans were barred from venues in Tokyo last summer, organizers are hoping to allow at least some spectators from China to attend events in Beijing. Chinese officials have laid out strict rules to try to limit the spread of the virus, among them that spectators will be allowed to clap but not shout.

Overseas spectators will not be allowed to enter the country.

Will N.H.L. players be there?

The N.H.L., which has postponed dozens of games this season because of the coronavirus surge, will no longer send its players to the Beijing Games.Credit…Chris Young/The Canadian Press, via Associated Press

No. That’s a reversal of plans announced in September that would have allowed the stars to head to Beijing while the league shut down for three weeks.

But with concerns rising about the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, the league and its players’ union pulled out of the Games and may use the time in February to make up postponed N.H.L. games.

The Olympic men’s hockey tournament will now most likely feature minor leaguers and those who play in other organizations.

How can I watch the Olympics?

As has been true for every Olympics this century, NBC will broadcast the Games in the United States. Coverage can also be found on various cable channels owned by the company, on NBCOlympics.com and on Peacock, the company’s streaming service.

Eurosport will carry the Games in Europe, often in partnership with national broadcasters like the BBC.

TSN, RDS and the CBC will show the Games in Canada, and Seven Network in Australia.

A schedule of Olympic events is here.

What is the time difference with Beijing?

The ski jumping center in Zhangjiakou, one of the cities hosting events.Credit…Wang Zhao/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Beijing is 13 hours ahead of Eastern time (you can check your time zone here).

That means many big events will be at awkward times for Americans: Women’s figure skating on Feb. 17 ends about 9 a.m. in New York and 6 a.m. in Los Angeles, and the men’s hockey final on Feb. 20 in Beijing begins after 11 p.m. on Feb. 19 in New York.

The opening ceremony will most likely take place in prime time in Beijing, which is the morning in the United States.

Are there any new events?

Kaillie Humphries of the United States competing in the monobob, a new Olympic event.Credit…Lisa Leutner/Associated Press

There are seven additions to the program for the 2022 Olympics. The most compelling among them could be the monobob, a women’s solo bobsledding event.

These are the other events making their debut at the Games:

  • Freestyle skiing: Mixed team aerials

  • Freestyle skiing: Men’s big air

  • Freestyle skiing: Women’s big air

  • Short-track speedskating: Mixed team relay

  • Ski jumping: Mixed team event

  • Snowboarding: Mixed team snowboard cross.

What are all the sports in the Winter Olympics?

There are fewer disciplines than in the Summer Olympics. The Winter Games include Alpine skiing, biathlon, bobsled, cross-country skiing, curling, figure skating, freestyle skiing, ice hockey, luge, Nordic combined, skeleton, ski jumping, snowboarding and speedskating.

Here’s more about all of them.

How much is an Olympic medal worth?

There is no prize money from the International Olympic Committee for winners. But many national federations give payments to athletes for winning medals.

Some of the bonuses are substantial: Singapore’s $1 million in local currency (roughly $740,000 in the United States) for a gold medal is the largest known reward. Some are more modest: A U.S. medalist receives $37,500 for gold, $22,500 for silver and $15,000 for bronze. Other bonuses are nonexistent, such as those for medalists from Britain, New Zealand and Norway.

Many athletes have later sold their medals to collectors, some citing financial hardships, others seeking to raise money for charity. The prices of old medals at auction vary quite a bit.

Who are the Beijing 2022 mascots?

After a global call for ideas which attracted more than 5,800 submissions, the organizers of the Games unveiled Bing Dwen Dwen, a cuddly panda who wears a suit made of ice. Shuey Rhon Rhon, an anthropomorphic lantern, is the Beijing Paralympics mascot.

(Maybe they will have a bigger presence than the mascots for last year’s Tokyo Games, who often seemed to be missing in action.)

What do the Olympic rings mean?

The five rings, of blue, yellow, black, green and red, date to 1912 and were designed by the modern Games’ founder, Pierre de Coubertin. The colors were chosen so that every flag in the world would have at least one matching color.

The reason there are five rings is murky: They may represent five continents, or the five Olympic Games that had been staged at the time they were designed. There is no particular meaning for any individual ring.

Where will the next Olympics take place?

The next Summer Olympics will be in Paris in 2024. The 2026 Winter Games will take place in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. The Summer Games will then head to Los Angeles in 2028 and Brisbane, Australia, in 2032. The host of the 2030 Winter Games will be selected in 2023.

Alan Blinder, Victor Mather and James Wagner contributed reporting.

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