Shortened Olympic torch relay starts for Beijing Games

First Torch bearer Luo Zhihuan and his wife poses with the torch at the start of the torch relay for the 2022 Winter Olympics at the Olympic Forest Park in Beijing on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Sam McNeil)

First Torch bearer Luo Zhihuan and his spouse poses with the torch at the beginning of the torch relay for the 2022 Winter Olympics on the Olympic Forest Park in Beijing on Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2022. (AP Picture/Sam McNeil)


The three-day torch relay for the Beijing Olympics, shortened significantly due to issues concerning the coronavirus, began Wednesday with an 80-year-old former speedskater carrying the flame.

The relay opened on the Olympic International Park. Luo Zhihuan, the nation’s first internationally aggressive speedskater, ran the primary leg.

The torch will probably be carried via the three Olympics zones, beginning with downtown Beijing earlier than heading to Yanqing district and eventually Zhangjiakou in neighboring Hebei Province.

The Beijing Video games have already been impacted on a scale just like that skilled by Tokyo throughout final yr’s Summer time Olympics. China says solely chosen spectators will probably be allowed to attend occasions, and Olympic athletes, officers, workers and journalists are required to remain inside a bubble that retains them from contact with most people.

Beijing, with its 20 million residents, has skilled solely a handful of COVID-19 circumstances and reported simply two new ones on Wednesday. Nevertheless, in line with China’s “zero tolerance” method to the pandemic, strict guidelines require lockdowns and mass testing when any actual or suspected case is found.

The truncated program appeared to have little impact on Luo, who after receiving the torch from Vice Premier Han Zheng mentioned it was the conclusion of decades-long aspiration.

“I’ve by no means participated within the Winter Olympics, so I had hoped our nation might host the Winter Olympics and I had the dream for almost 60 years,” mentioned Luo, sporting a pink and white jacket marked with No. 1. “At present my dream has come true … How comfortable I’m!”

The opening of the Beijing Video games comes solely days after the beginning of the Lunar New Yr vacation, China’s greatest annual celebration when thousands and thousands historically journey to their hometowns for household reunions. For the second straight yr, the federal government has suggested these residing away from residence to remain put, and practice and airplane journey has been curtailed.

Members within the torch relay have undergone well being screenings and have been rigorously monitored, ranging from two weeks earlier than the occasion.

Others among the many 135 torchbearers heading out Wednesday had been Jing Haipeng, captain of the Chinese language Astronaut Corps, Ye Peijian, a 77-year-old advisor to China’s lunar exploration program, former NBA participant Yao Ming, and Chinese language movie director Zhang Yimou, who will direct Friday’s opening ceremony on the Chicken’s Nest.

The scaled-down torch relay is a far cry from 2008, when Beijing despatched the Olympic flame on a world journey forward of internet hosting that yr’s Summer time Video games. The relay drew protesters towards China’s human rights violations and insurance policies in Tibet, Xinjiang and elsewhere, resulting in violent confrontations and the cancellation of some abroad levels.

The Winter Video games have been beset by comparable political controversies, alongside medical concerns.

Six weeks in the past, the USA, Britain and a number of other allies mentioned they’d not ship dignitaries to attend the Beijing Video games as a protest towards human rights abuses by the Communist Occasion regime.

Athletes have been threatened by the organizing committee with “sure punishments” for saying or doing something that might offend their Chinese language hosts, whereas a number of delegations urged anybody headed to Beijing to take “burner” telephones as a substitute of their private units due to issues their private data could possibly be compromised.

The Nationwide Hockey League cited uncertainty attributable to the pandemic to carry again all of its gamers from the Olympic event. And American broadcaster NBC mentioned it gained’t be sending saying groups to China, citing the identical virus issues raised when the community pulled most of its reporters from the Tokyo Video games.


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