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In Beijing, Olympic Ideals Coexist with Authoritarian Rule

Tim Sullivan wrote . . . . . . . . .

His collar turned up against the cold, the head of the International Olympic Committee looked out over the stadium and spoke of the ideals that had brought together athletes from all over the world.

“In our fragile world, where division, conflict and mistrust are on the rise, we show the world that it is possible to be fierce rivals while at the same time living peacefully and respectfully together,” Thomas Bach, a gold-medalist fencer nearly 40 years ago, said Friday at the Winter Games’ opening ceremony.

The Olympic mission is clear, he said: “Always building bridges, never erecting walls.”

Critics of Bach and the IOC say those ideals are nonsense, and talk of respect and bridge-building is overshadowed by Olympic officials cozying up to some of the world’s most powerful authoritarian rulers. Starting with holding this year’s Games in a country accused of widespread human rights violations.

The IOC knows that Beijing has locked up hundreds of thousands of minority Uyghur Muslims, those critics say, and arrested countless people who dared voice criticism of the government.

The IOC’s “failure to publicly confront Beijing’s serious human rights violations makes a mockery of its own commitments and claims that the Olympics are a ‘force for good,’” Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, said shortly before the Games opened.

Some rights activists are calling these Olympics the “Genocide Games,” and leaders of a string of democratic nations, including the U.S., Great Britain, Australia and Canada, are avoiding the Games, citing either Beijing’s human rights violations or its sweeping coronavirus restrictions.

Meanwhile, Chinese President Xi Jinping is hosting a parade of fellow strongman leaders, including Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who met Friday with Xi before attending the opening ceremony, as well as the leaders of Egypt and Serbia, who were meeting with China’s leader on Saturday.

The Games come at a time when democracy can look like it’s in retreat.

Over the past year there was a military takeover in Myanmar, Beijing’s tightening grip over Hong Kong and a brutal political crackdown in Nicaragua. There are authoritarian rulers from Turkey to the Philippines.

The IOC rarely mentions any of this.

Bach, for his part, has studiously steered around talk of human rights in China. He did say he would meet Peng Shuai, the Chinese tennis star who largely dropped from sight after accusing a former top Communist Party official of sexual assault, then later insisted she’d been misunderstood. Bach said she’d told IOC officials that she “that she can move freely, that she’s spending time with her family and friends.”

He said he’d support Peng if she wants an investigation. “But it’s her life, it’s her allegations,” he added.

Avoiding controversy has long been Bach’s rule.

“Sport must be politically neutral, but sport cannot be apolitical,” he once wrote, threading the phrasing needle so carefully his actual meaning is unclear.

But he knows it’s a gamble to make a stand on issues like human rights.

“If we are getting in the middle of tensions, disputes and confrontations of the political powers then we are putting the Games at risk,” he told reporters at a Beijing press conference.

Olympic organizers have a long history with authoritarian rulers, from Adolf Hitler in the 1936 Summer Games in Berlin to Vladimir Putin and the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

“There’s not a glorious history to look back on,” said Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College who has extensively studied the Olympics.

Take those Berlin Games. By 1936, Nazi antisemitism was blatantly clear, with laws that excluded German Jews from citizenship and banned marriage or sex between Jews and “citizens of German or kindred blood.”

Yet the Games went ahead. And two Jewish runners on the U.S. team, Marty Glickman and Sam Stoller, were pulled from the 4-X-100 meter relay squad one day before the race. U.S. officials insisted it had been done to bring in faster runners, but Glickman saw it differently.

“Here were two rather obscure Jewish athletes who could be kept off the podium so to not embarrass Adolf Hitler,” he said years later in an interview.

Zimbalist says the Olympic Committee is so risk-averse that it’s tarnishing its reputation.

“They pretend that they’re apolitical even though they make choices that are inherently political,” he said in an interview. They are “giving a level of approval to the Chinese by hosting the Games there. That’s a statement.”

He said the IOC can look for ways to speak out on issues like human rights while being careful not to spark a political firestorm.

“They’ve been working with the Chinese Olympic Committee. They know the limits (of speaking out) better than you or I,” he said. “I’d like to see the IOC testing some of those limits.”

Instead, the committee remains silent, and not just about China.

Putin, for instance, attended the Games’ opening even though sports sanctions mean the country’s team must play as the “Russian Olympic Committee” because of a sophisticated doping scheme.

Putin and Xi used their meeting to project themselves as a counterweight to the United States and its allies. China has also been showing growing support for Moscow in its dispute with Ukraine, which has an estimated 100,000 Russian troops massed along its border, a predicament Washington fears could lead to all-out war.

With billions of dollars at stake for the host country, not to mention TV rights and sponsorships, the Olympics can seem as much about money as sports. The IOC is desperate for the Games to remain “brand safe,” so that sponsors, some of whom have reportedly paid hundreds of millions of dollars, don’t see those investments backfire. These include some of the world’s best-known brands, from Coca-Cola to Visa to Toyota. The last thing they want is for their products to be associated with Chinese human rights abuses.

But Christopher Magee, a professor at Bucknell University, noted that the IOC is just one of many players in China’s immense economy.

“It’s fair to criticize them for prioritizing money over humanitarian concerns,” he said. “But a lot of firms and countries do that. It’s hard not to.”

The economies of nearly every nation in the world – including those whose leaders are boycotting these Games – are deeply intertwined with Beijing’s.

And every once in awhile, the IOC does speak up.


Some observers say Bach appeared to make an oblique reference to Ukraine in his opening speech, urging political leaders to “observe your commitment to this Olympic truth: Give peace a chance.”

But if it was a Ukraine reference, it was so oblique that many political and Olympic analysts didn’t even notice.

Source : AP

How to Make Snow for a Winter Olympics in a Dry City

Ye Ruolin wrote . . . . . . . . .

Wang Feiteng has spent much of his career keeping an eye on China’s glaciers, making arduous treks into the mountains every year to study how to slow their decline in a warming world.

More recently, however, his work has involved a different kind of ice formation. Wang and his team are in charge of the artificial snow needed for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, set to start on Feb. 4.

Beijing and the mountains to its north — where some of the events, including skiing and snowboarding, will be held — are notoriously arid and see very little snowfall in winter. Moreover, temperatures in February could rise below freezing, and there’s a risk of storms that will dust the top layer of snow in sand. As a result, the Beijing games will rely entirely on artificial snow.

As global snow coverage declines due to climate change, more winter sports events are adopting artificial snow. During the 2010 Winter Olympics, host city Vancouver experienced an unusually warm winter that forced organizers to bring in artificial snow. The Games in Russia’s Sochi and South Korea’s Pyeongchang also could not rely on natural snow.

A recent study, which assumed current global greenhouse gas emissions, concluded that only one of the previous 21 Winter Olympics host cities would have the right climate condition to host the games again by the end of the century.

China does not have a rich history in winter sports. They have only recently become popular among the wider public, picking up only after Beijing won its bid to host the 2022 Games, in 2015, and pledged to “motivate 300 million people to become involved in ice and snow sports.”

Two years later, in 2017, an expert team of the International Ski Federation — the organization responsible for several major Olympic skiing and snowboarding competitions — toured several ski resorts in China and found they didn’t have any pistes that met their standards.

Better artificial snow was needed for the Olympics. Wang, 32, is a glacier researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and one of a handful of people in China who study how snow changes over time after it falls to the ground. He has spent years observing snow on glaciers and researching how to best preserve snow to slow down glacier melt. But prior to joining the Olympics snow service team in 2016, Wang didn’t know much about making artificial snow — as did barely anyone else in China.

The Olympic snow service team has spent the past four years racing to figure out how to make snow good enough for world-class sporting events that will be held in climate conditions unlike others. Different competitions require various snow textures, and it took the team several winters, numerous experiments in frigid weather, and a trip to Pyeongchang to work out the recipes for the best artificial snow.

Since last November, Wang and his team had been loading cannon-like snowmaking machines with water. These cannons shoot out ice crystals and water droplets, which combine to form snow when it lands on the ground. Mounds of human-made flakes are now piled up near the venues that will host races such as big air, ski jumping, and alpine skiing. Over 70 gold medals will be handed out for games on snow during the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Wang’s work now consists mostly of meticulously checking on the snow piles, measuring their grain size, temperature, and density to make sure they are optimal for the Games ahead.

Speaking with Sixth Tone over the phone from Beijing, Wang discusses the technology involved in making snow for the Games, how climate change poses a challenge, and how his Olympic job compares to his usual research. The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Sixth Tone: What do you need to make artificial snow?

Wang Feiteng: All that’s needed is water, which is put through the snow cannons where the water combines with air to make snow. But different games require different snow densities.

For games like cross country skiing and Nordic combined, we want snow that’s the most similar to fresh, natural snow, which has a density of around 200 kilograms per cubic meter. For big air events, we want less powdery snow with a density of around 400 to 500 kilograms per cubic meter.

Snow for alpine skiing events, including downhill and slalom, is the most difficult because its density has to reach 650 kilograms per cubic meter. We call this type “icy snow,” for it is almost as hard as ice so skiers can race at their top speed, but needs to remain snow so skis and snowboards can still carve into it.

To make icy snow, we use pumps to inject water into the artificial snow on the ground to produce snow grains of the right size to reach the desired snow slope density. The process is harder than it sounds because multiple environmental factors such as temperature and wind can affect the snow quality. We spent years running tests to figure out the optimal combination of parameters for the weather in Beijing, like water pressure and injection time.

Sixth Tone: Is all the snow for the Games already made?

Wang Feiteng: Yes. The games are about to start, so we had all the snow made last November and December, during the coldest time of the year.

One reason is that snowmaking cannons work the most efficiently when the temperature is below -10 degrees Celsius. More snow could be produced with the same amount of water compared to slightly warmer weather. Beijing is beginning to warm up, so running the cannons now would be more resource-intensive.

All the snow is stored outside in empty spaces near the venues and covered with large reflective pieces of cloth, so sunlight doesn’t melt the snow.

The snow density changes as the snow is piled up because of factors like changes in temperature and gravity. We have taken that into consideration when we make the snow. For example, if we’re making snow to be used in two months, we will make snow that’s lighter, which will become denser as it sits in a pile. I have studied how snow on glaciers changes over time for years, so this is where my expertise comes in.

Wang Feiteng’s team test creating most suitable snow conditions for alpine skiing at the National Alpine Ski Centre, Beijing, December 2021. Courtesy of Wang Feiteng
Wang Feiteng’s team test creating most suitable snow conditions for alpine skiing at the National Alpine Ski Centre, Beijing, December 2021. Courtesy of Wang Feiteng

Sixth Tone: Does Beijing’s climate pose a challenge to maintaining snow quality for the Games?

Wang Feiteng: We have designed contingency plans for different weather events like snow, rain, and sandstorms. If any of that happens, it will change the snow condition on the slopes’ surface. We will need to scrape the top layer of snow off and replace it with a new layer of stored snow.

Fresh, natural snow isn’t actually good for the competitions except for events like cross-country skiing that use a more natural snow track. For high-speed alpine skiing, the fluffy natural snow is actually dangerous. Because of the differences in density, the natural snow layer would have low friction against the icy snow layer underneath, increasing the risk of an avalanche.

Sixth Tone: Does climate change bring challenges to snow service?

Wang Feiteng: Certainly. For one, a warming climate means there’s less time for snowmaking cannons to work efficiently. The majority of ski resorts in the world use artificial snow, so the impact is significant. Ski resorts would also have to shorten their open season, because snow melts quickly. It’s not great when we want to encourage more people to participate in these winter sports.

Sixth Tone: Is making snow for the Winter Olympics difficult work?

Wang Feiteng: It isn’t compared with glacier research. Even though we have to conduct experiments outdoors in winter, we usually work at ski resorts, which are very close to cities and have modern amenities.

When I go on expedition trips to glaciers in China’s northwest in the summer, which is also frigid cold, we go to regions that are usually uninhabited and undeveloped. Most of the time, we have to hike on ice for hours, sleep in tents, and spend days without a phone signal.

So, compared to that, working on snow service for the Winter Olympics is not very hard work.

Sixth Tone: What makes you proud?

Wang Feiteng: To be honest, before I’m tasked with snow-making for the Games, I simply assumed there would be no obstacles in hosting the Winter Olympics, especially considering our country’s economic strength. But after I started working in this area, I realized China had barely any experience, no talent, and no technology to provide snow service for the Games. We have institutions for training professional skiers and snowboarders, but no one researched snowmaking scientifically.

We had to start from scratch. But now, I’m proud to say that we are the first team in China to study snowmaking, including snow storage, for sporting events. We published the first scientific papers in this area in China and trained the first group of graduates to do research in the field.

Source : Sixth Tone

Opinion: China Olympics 2022 – COVID Cover Up by Country’s Leaders Means They Should Forfeit Games

John Ratcliffe wrote . . . . . . . . .

With the summer Olympics kicking off in Japan in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this is a good time to remember that in a matter of just six months, another Olympic Games is scheduled to take place in Beijing, where the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership coordinated — and continues to perpetrate — a massive cover up of the virus’s origins and the circumstances surrounding its initial outbreak.

As Director of National Intelligence during much of the pandemic, I know this particularly well.

The 2022 Winter Games should go on. We should not punish hard-working athletes who have dedicated their lives to preparing for this moment. But the world — and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) — should not allow Beijing to enjoy the benefits of hosting a massive global event while rejecting transparency and refusing to allow inquiries into, much less answering for, the deaths of millions of people around the world.

Biden admin must ramp up pressure on China on COVID, ‘genocide’: Morgan OrtagusVideo
Just last week, China rejected the World Health Organization’s (WHO) plan to investigate the theory that the virus escaped from a Chinese laboratory in Wuhan. This was remarkable not only because of China’s continued belligerence, but also because the WHO was once complicit, caving to the CCP’s initial pressure to dismiss the lab leak theory and downplay the CCP’s coverup. But now the facts are too hard for even the WHO — and hopefully the IOC — to ignore.

I had access to all of the U.S. government’s most sensitive intelligence related to the pandemic. My informed opinion is that the lab leak theory isn’t just a “possibility,” at the very least it is more like a probability, if not very close to a certainty.

More than 18 months after the virus first leaked into the world, I still have not seen a single shred of scientific evidence or intelligence that the virus outbreak was a naturally occurring “spillover” that jumped from an animal to a human.

Conversely, although the CCP has gone to great lengths to ensure there is no “smoking gun,” every piece of evidence I have seen points to the pandemic’s origin being a leak out of the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).

Quite simply, the lab leak theory is the only one supported by science, intelligence and common sense.

There is scientific consensus that the outbreak began in Wuhan, in spite of the fact that coronaviruses are not naturally occurring there. In fact, the nearest bat caves where the virus conceivable could have originated are in Yunnan province, which is as far from Wuhan as New York City is from Atlanta. If the bats had flown (their range is only about 30 miles) or been transported that far, there would presumably have been cases popping up along the route, which did not happen. Meanwhile, Wuhan scientists were openly studying bat coronaviruses in their lab.

Common sense holds that if the CCP could, they would dispel the notion that COVID-19 leaked from a lab under their control and that they attempted to cover it up — because nothing undermines China’s ambitions as an emerging global superpower more than being culpable for the deaths of millions of people around the world.

Instead, the CCP’s every move has been to stonewall legitimate investigations, quell critical voices, and engage in a worldwide propaganda campaign to divert blame from themselves, even going so far as to absurdly assert that the virus was created by the U.S. military.

The CCP has not provided any exculpatory evidence in a crime that had devastating impacts on nearly every person on earth because, in short, they can’t.

In January of this year, I worked with then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to have the State Department issue a fact sheet drawing on classified intelligence, cleared by my office, stating that “several researchers inside the WIV became sick in autumn 2019, before the first identified case of the outbreak, with symptoms consistent with both Covid-19 and seasonal illnesses.”

This declassified intelligence has since been corroborated by public reporting with more details. Even so, some in the media unwittingly helped the CCP in its disinformation efforts, dismissing the lab leak theory as a “conspiracy theory,” while Facebook affixed warnings of “false or misleading” to anyone who dared speak of it.

Unfortunately, President Biden’s 90-day timeline for the intelligence community to dig into the origins of the virus falsely suggests that the intelligence community’s collection has been the problem. That is simply not the case.

Before leaving office, we tried to balance the need to protect sensitive sources and methods with providing clarity and answers in the public interest.

By releasing the State Department fact sheet, we hoped to jumpstart international momentum toward holding China accountable. But in light of their continued rejection of transparency and accountability, the Biden’s administration must now go further and declassify and publicly release additional intelligence because it is vital to the national and global interest.

World leaders owe it to the billions of people harmed by this virus — and to the families of those who lost their lives — to get to the bottom of its origins, for the sake of justice and to ensure this never happens again.

That effort should start with the United States government sharing what it knows. From there, it should continue by the International Olympic Committee denying the CCP the ability to burnish its global image despite its crimes.

The seven Olympic values are friendship, excellence, respect, courage, determination, inspiration and equality. The CCP’s coverup of the virus’s origins have proven once again that they are no friend of the world.

They have shown a commitment to excellence in little else other than their efforts to suppress the truth. They continue to disrespect the memory of millions of COVID-victims and attempt to bully anyone who shows the courage and determination to stand up to them.

Their entire system is designed to only inspire fealty to their oppressive regime, which rejects equality — and even basic dignity — to minorities living under its rule.

Beijing should not be allowed to host the 2022 Olympic Games.

Source : Fox News

Chart of the Day: The Massive Costs Behind The Olympic Games

Source : Statista