The 2022 Olympic Winter Games officially will run from February 4th to the 20th. Despite the surging Omicron variant hammering the US and many other countries, we will have another Olympics during the pandemic. Unlike the Tokyo Games, which took place without live spectators, the winter games will include audiences (tickets only for those living in China) of yet-to-be-determined sizes. The country also plans to employ three bubbles for athletes and staff – Beijing for indoor events and ceremonies, Yangqing for skiing and sliding events and Zhangjiakou for other events.
The Games will feature 2,900 athletes from 85 countries competing in 109 medal events across 15 disciplines. The US plans to send 200 medal hopefuls, but public officials will not join them since we are leading a diplomatic boycott due to China’s human rights abuses of minorities, particularly Muslims known as Uyghurs. This boycott led to the host country crying foul over the politicization of the Games, but this is truly nothing new, going back at least as far as the 1936 Olympics in Berlin where four-time gold medalist Jesse Owens refuted German claims of Aryan superiority.
There will no doubt be the usual pandemic withdraws, but some things to watch for include:
Figure skating continues to be the belle of the ball, with reigning gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu (Japan) and Nathan Chen (USA) both competing.
There are seven new events, including freestyle skiing big air and women’s monobob and mixed-team ski jumping, freestyle aerials, short-track speedskating relay, and snowboard cross.
US athletes to watch
While these athletes are shoe-ins, many teams have not yet held their qualifiers.
- Nathan Chen: He is a three-time world champion but has yet to win a gold medal, so the pressure is on after placing fifth in 2018.
- Erin Jackson: The former roller derby athlete from Florida qualified for the US speed skating team after just four months of training. She’s now a frontrunner for gold.
- Chloe Kim: She was a breakout star in 2018 as a 17-year-old snowboarder but now returns to the sport after a 22-month break. She easily won her first event back and is favored to take gold in the half-pipe.
- Mikaela Shiffrin: At 26, she’s already one of the most decorated Alpine skiers in history. If she can rebound from a case of COVID, she’ll get more Olympic hardware.
- John Shuster: He captained the US curling team that took home gold for the first time in 2018, making curling must-watch TV.