“President Biden is a hockey fan, and so is President Xi Jinping. China and the United States may take the opportunity of the Beijing Winter Olympics to carry out a new ping-pong diplomacy,” the author once suggested when Biden took office. Unfortunately, that did not occur, as the U.S. government diplomatically boycotted the Beijing Winter Olympics.
The lyrics of the theme song “Snowflakes” sung by more than 100 children at the opening ceremony of the Games — “Thousands of you and me / Gather into a family” — simply and powerfully conveyed the spirit that “all under heaven are one family.” The background music for the entrance of athletes from different countries ranged from Vivaldi’s “Spring Concerto from the Four Seasons” and the fourth movement of Beethoven’s fifth symphony (the so-called Destiny Symphony) to Dvorak’s “From the New World,” which converged into the Beijing Winter Olympics theme song “Together to the Future.”
From the opening ceremony to the closing ceremony, from the preparation to the competition, from the design of the venues to their subsequent use, from the athletes to the volunteers … the Beijing Winter Olympics has brought vivid inspirations to China-U.S. relations.
In July 2021, Chinese President Xi Jinping pointed out, "The human race is an integral community and the planet is our homeland. In the face of common challenges, no person or country can remain aloof. The only way out is to work together in harmony with one accord.”
Working together with one accord has three levels of meaning: developing yourself, others and the world.
1. Pursuing common growth
The Winter Olympic Games are demanding for ice and snow venues. The sites are also selected based on a comprehensive consideration of temperature, snowfall, terrain and socioeconomic factors. However, it is not only the physical environment that makes it possible for athletes to prevail. More important they need a good competitive environment, high-level competitors and teamwork. This is how ice and snow athletes work together with one accord for common growth.
Inside the Capital Indoor Stadium, the music of “Butterfly Lovers” sounded when Karen Chen, an American athlete, was performing in the women’s figure skating. The colorful dancing and beautiful melody perfectly combined sports with art, integrated modern and classical elements and enabled mutual learning for both Eastern and Western civilizations. This is a full expression of the beauty of China and the United States growing together.
2. Helping each other develop
As Mo Tzu said, “Whoever loves others is loved by others; whoever benefits others is benefited by others.” This is quite relevant to new types of international relations. On Jan. 25, 2021, President Xi Jinping stated in his special address at the Davos World Economic Forum Virtual Event, “We should advocate fair competition, like competing with each other for excellence in a racing field, not beating each other in a wrestling arena.” This is exactly what the Olympic movement demonstrates.
The Beijing Winter Olympics also showcased international standards of fair competition, solidarity and fraternity. When President Xi Jinping met with IOC President Thomas Bach in Beijing, he noted, “The notion of ‘Together’ championed by the Olympic movement is needed more than ever. Instead of riding separately in some 190 small boats, countries around the world should stay together in one giant vessel and sail toward a brighter future. That is why we put forth ‘Together for a Shared Future’ as the official motto for the Beijing Winter Olympics.”
Friendship, which derives from close contacts between peoples, is the key to sound state-to-state relations. Xi Jinping stated, “The people of China and the United States have simple and friendly feelings for each other. The Sino-American friendship lies in our people, and the future in our youth.” This was perfectly illustrated by the Beijing Winter Olympics.
3. Working together to develop the world
The interests to be considered should be the interests of all; the fame to be sought should be a fame for all. Competitions are not only about getting medals but also about challenging oneself, challenging the limits and achieving Olympic records and world records. The Winter Olympics, held in the festive atmosphere of the Chinese New Year, with the Great Wall of China in the background, is as old, yet young and passionate as the international Olympic Movement.
The Winter Olympics, originally a game for the rich in developed European countries, has been transformed to sports for common people in China. As Xi stated, “Let more people participate in ice and snow sports, which is the meaning of the Olympic movement. By organizing the Winter Olympics and promoting the Winter Olympics, China has brought ice and snow sports into the homes of ordinary people, achieved the goal of driving 300 million people to participate in ice and snow sports and made new contributions to the global Olympic cause.”
Beijing is the world’s only “double-Olympic city” to have hosted both Summer and Winter Games. The Winter Games, in particular, heralded a new era of common prosperity in China. Former International Ski Federation Secretary-General Sarah Lewis said that it had taken 50 years to develop the ice and snow sports industry in Europe and the United States, but China had basically formed a complete industry ecosystem within five years.
Before the opening of the Beijing Winter Olympics, The New York Times published an article titled “For Olympic Sponsors, China Is an Exception,” which said that, “President Biden and a handful of other Western leaders might have declared a ‘diplomatic boycott’ of the Winter Games, but some of the world’s most famous brands would still be there.” The article reported: “At the bottom of the slope where snowboarders will compete in the 2022 Beijing Olympics, an electronic sign cycles through ads for companies like Samsung and Audi. Coca-Cola’s cans are adorned with Olympic rings. Procter & Gamble has opened a beauty salon in the Olympic Village. Visa is the event’s official credit card.”
It concluded that, “The prominence of these multinational companies, many of them American, has taken the political sting out of the efforts by Mr. Biden and other leaders to punish China for its human rights abuses. The Olympic sponsorship reflects the stark choice facing multinational companies working in the country. ... When it comes to the Beijing Olympics, the decision has been clear.”
Beijing Olympian Gu Ailing, who has a bicultural background in China and the United States, said in an interview after winning gold in the women’s freestyle skiing big air final at the Games:
“I’ve always been super outspoken in my gratitude to the U.S. and to the U.S. team as well. They have been nothing but supportive to me, and for that I am forever grateful. And the same to the Chinese team. They have been so, so supportive of me. They understand that my mission is to use sport as a force for unity, to use it as a form to foster interconnection between countries, and not use it as a divisive force. We are all out here together pushing the human limit.”
The opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics used technological aesthetics to interpret the Olympic spirit, and the tacit cooperation between people and artistic effects became the key to the success of the show. This “tacit cooperation” was not the result of precise rehearsal; it came from a more efficient and technological means — Intel’s 3D Athlete Tracking (3DAT), which made it possible for the ground screen to instantly give real-time feedback and present artistic effects.
The technological aesthetics of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics incorporated the contributions of Chinese-American engineers and demonstrated the attractiveness of the Chinese market to U.S. chip companies. It was also a showcase of the cross-border integration and innovation community with a shared goal in the era of digital civilization.
The Beijing Winter Olympics became an event for athletes from all countries to realize their dreams on ice and snow and to demonstrate the spirit of human solidarity and cooperation. In his speech at the opening ceremony, IOC President Thomas Bach said the Olympic Games should always build bridges and never erect walls. He noted that the Olympic athletes would show how the world will look if we all respect the same rules and each other. He added that we should show the world that it is possible to be fierce rivals, while at the same time living peacefully and respectfully together. This is the mission of the Olympic Games: bringing us together in peaceful competition.
The Beijing Winter Olympics was an excellent opportunity to showcase the unity and cooperation of Olympic athletes, sports workers, reporters and volunteers from around the world in the midst of the epidemic, and to bring light to the China-U.S. relationship.
The epidemic has created a new divide between China and the United States. Coming to Beijing for the Winter Olympics has changed the way many Americans view China. Factors from epidemic prevention and control to the organization of the games and to the Chinese New Year impressed many American athletes. Tessa Maud, for example, took a shot of the entrance to the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics. When she shouted “ni hao” in Chinese to a volunteer on the sidelines, a volunteer in a pink shirt then enthusiastically waved and responded: “Welcome to China.”
The Chinese volunteer’s enthusiasm touched Maud so much that she later recorded a video saying, “That guy who said ‘Welcome to China’ literally brings tears every time. They are so nice. All the volunteers are so sweet and kind. They are so happy that we’re here. We feel so welcomed.”
In fact, many foreign athletes attending the Beijing Winter Olympics have been given the opportunity to get a firsthand sense of China and show fans what life was like at the Games and in the Olympic Village.
Compete like the Olympics. Unite like the Olympics. Together to the future with the Olympics. These are the inspirations the Beijing Winter Olympics had for the China-U.S. relations.