The Beijing Winter Olympics are 99 days away — here's an early primer
Some notes on key event times, boycott talk, the weather and more
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Let's take a bird's-eye view of the fast-approaching Beijing Olympics
The Beijing Winter Olympics officially open in 99 days, and competition starts in 97 — some mixed doubles curling games get things rolling on Feb. 2. Yesterday, we examined how Canada might do in the medal standings. Today, let's zoom out and look at some broader things to know about these Games:
COVID-19 countermeasures will be even tighter.
Tokyo was able to pull off the Summer Olympics this year by largely banning fans from venues and mandating as little mixing as possible between athletes, officials and the general public. Beijing is taking the so-called "closed-loop" system (or "bubble," to use the more common term) seriously too. Spectators will be allowed to attend events, but they have to live in mainland China and "meet the requirements of the COVID-19 countermeasures," the International Olympic Committee said. Everyone inside the bubble (including athletes, officials, journalists and staff) is subject to daily testing and must be fully vaccinated or else serve a 21-day quarantine upon arrival.
The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic teams are taking their vaccine mandates a step further, requiring athletes to be fully inoculated in order to compete at the Games. The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee has adopted the same policy.
Talk of a boycott has quieted.
The sabre-rattling by politicians reached its peak last February, right as Beijing started the one-year countdown to the Olympics. Three Canadian political party leaders — the Conservatives' Erin O'Toole, the NDP's Jagmeet Singh and the Green Party's Annamie Paul — called for the Games to be relocated, pointing to the Chinese government's treatment of its Muslim minority population as a reason. O'Toole's was the loudest voice in the room. He labelled China's actions toward the Uyghur people a "genocide" and suggested Canada should consider boycotting the Beijing Games if relocation was not possible and if there was "no change in conduct" by China. The Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Committees made it clear they're vehemently opposed to boycotts, which they argue only hurt athletes while accomplishing nothing of real value.
The chances of a Canadian boycott went down when Justin Trudeau held onto power in last month's election. He has never indicated support for boycotting (or even relocating) the Beijing Games, and he refused to label China's actions toward its Uyghur population a "genocide," saying more information needed to be gathered before using that "loaded" term. A boycott became even more unlikely a few days following the election when Trudeau announced that Canadians Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig had been freed after being detained in China for almost three years.
It might get a little warm.
Beijing is the first city to be awarded both a Summer and Winter Olympics. Its average daily high temperature in February is around 5 degrees Celsius — hardly a winter wonderland. Like in Sochi, Russia in 2014, organizers may have to rely on man-made snow at some venues. Most of the skiing and snowboarding events are taking place in Zhangjiakou, a ski destination about 180 km northwest of Beijing, though alpine skiing and the sliding sports will take place in a suburb only 75 km northwest of the city centre.
Hopefully, last year's weather doesn't repeat itself. From Feb. 4 to Feb. 20 (the dates of the opening and closing ceremony), the daily high temperature in Beijing reached double digits nine times. On Feb. 19, it hit 17 degrees.
Get ready to stay up late/wake up early again.
During the Olympics, the time in Beijing will be 13 hours ahead of Eastern Time — same as it was for Tokyo this past summer. To give you an idea of what this means for the most popular events, the men's and women's gold-medal hockey games will both start at 11:10 p.m. ET. In curling, the mixed doubles final is at 7:05 a.m. ET, the men's final at 1:05 a.m. ET, and the women's final at 8:05 p.m. ET. In figure skating, the final rounds of the team, men's and dance events will each wrap up somewhere around 11 p.m.-midnight ET, give or take, while the women's and pairs events conclude just before 9 a.m. ET. See the full schedule of events here.
One more scheduling note: For the first time ever, the Olympics and the Super Bowl will take place at the same time. The NFL title game is on Sunday, Feb. 13 — right in the middle of the Games. In recent years, the Winter Olympics have opened a few days after the Super Bowl so as to avoid going head-to-head. But NBC, which has the U.S. broadcast rights to both events in 2022 and holds considerable sway over the Olympic schedule, wanted the overlap. Really wanted it, actually — they traded Super Bowls with CBS so they could sell it and the Olympics to advertisers as a package deal.
Seven new events will debut.
There will be men's and women's freestyle skiing big air competitions (joining the snowboarding big air events that debuted in 2018), a women's monobob (that's single-athlete bobsleigh), and four mixed team events in snowboard cross, short track speed skating, ski jumping and aerials skiing. Also, the men's hockey tournament will get a glow-up with the return of NHL players after they missed the 2018 Games.
Joel Quenneville coached last night
Many felt the Florida Panthers head coach should have been held out of the game vs. Boston after an investigation commissioned by Chicago's NHL team found he was among the group of decision makers who chose to do nothing in 2010 upon hearing that video coach Brad Aldrich had allegedly sexually assaulted a young player. That player, Kyle Beach, courageously stepped forward yesterday to say that he is the John Doe in the report released by the investigators. Less courageous was Quenneville's decision to coach last night but not face questions from reporters after the game (Panthers general manager Bill Zito appeared instead).
Quenneville, who was Chicago's head coach in 2010, has insisted he did not know about the allegations until this summer. Beach, though, agrees with the investigators' conclusion that Quenneville and other top Chicago officials did know but chose not to act because they didn't want to upset the team on its (ultimately successful) run to the Stanley Cup that year. "There's absolutely no way that [Quenneville] can deny knowing it,'' Beach told TSN reporter Rick Westhead in an interview that aired last night.
Quenneville was scheduled to meet this afternoon with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who will presumably use that sit-down to help him decide whether Quenneville should face punishment from the league. Winnipeg Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, an assistant GM with Chicago in 2010, is in a similar situation. He's set to meet with Bettman on Monday. Read more about how the Chicago sexual assault scandal has rocked not only that organization but the entire sport of hockey here.
You're up to speed. Talk to you tomorrow.