Heading into the Winter Olympics, there was much talk of two host cities — one inside a tightly-sealed bubble where the Games would be held, and one outside, where daily life would go on as normal.
But the past two weeks have also shown the world two very different Games: For China, Beijing 2022 was a resounding success that exceeded all expectations.
To the rest of the world, it remained a deeply polarizing event, that projected not only China’s rising power but also its growing assertiveness, ready to defy and challenge its critics.
Covid: In its meticulously managed “closed loop,” the ubiquitous face masks, spraying of disinfectant and daily testing have paid-off. Infections brought into the country were swiftly identified and contained, allowing the Games to run largely free of Covid.
Medals: In the medal tables, Team China claimed nine golds and a total of 15 medals, delivering its best ever result at a Winter Olympics — and ranking above the United States. The stellar performances of its new Olympic stars — from freeski sensation Eileen Gu to snowboard prodigy Su Yiming — captivated fans, drawing an outpouring of pride.
Avoiding embarrassment: But for the Chinese government, part of the domestic success also comes from the avoidance of major political scandal or embarrassment. While the doping saga surrounding a teenage Russian figure skater has cast a shadow over the Olympics, it was downplayed inside China. The same was true of criticism of the Games in general, most of which was censored and blocked.
And much to the relief of government officials in Beijing, not a single athlete attempted to use the event to publicly protest China’s human rights record — a hot-button issue in the lead-up to the Olympics.
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