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Olympic dispatch: Business as usual despite pandemic, geopolitical risks

Olympic dispatch: Business as usual despite pandemic, geopolitical risks

Last week I wrote about why hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics in the shadow of Covid, diplomatic boycotts, and a fraught geopolitical environment was a risky bet for China. But now that the Beijing Games are firmly underway, I have to say they are going pretty well for the host.

On the pandemic front, China has thus far been effective at containing infections within the Olympic “bubble.” Sporting events have been only minimally disrupted. Authorities also seem to be succeeding at keeping said bubble tightly sealed and quarantined from the general population, key to ensuring the sustainability of the country’s zero-Covid policy should an outbreak pop up.To be sure, most people (including the Chinese!) are still feeling blasé about these Olympics. Last Friday’s opening ceremony drew 43% fewer TV viewers than the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games. But the same could be said about the 2021 Tokyo Summer Olympics, also underwhelming but hardly scandalous. Public interest in the Olympics has been on a steady decline for many years. Beyond this trend and the lack of crowds to cheer on the athletes, though, we haven’t seen any significant Covid- or politics-related disruptions to the Games. That’s a win in China’s book.

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The Winter Olympics in a Divided World | Quick Take | GZERO Media

The Winter Olympics in a divided world

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi, everybody. Ian Bremmer here, and a happy start of the week to you. Got your Quick Take to get you going on a Monday, and why not talk about the Olympics, the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, so different from the Summer Olympics that they hosted back in 2008, when the American president was there, and was enormously impressed, and this was China coming out onto the world stage, and seen as a global leader. Though the presumption in the West was still as they got wealthier and more powerful, and we let them into global leadership roles, including hosting the Olympics, they would eventually become more of a free market and more democratic. And of course, that was wrong.

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An employee is seen while people undergo PCR tests for COVID-19 upon their arrival at Beijing Capital International Airport ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics. The 24th Winter Olympic Games are scheduled to take place in Beijing on February 4-20, 2022.

Valery Sharifulin/TASS

Hard Numbers: COVID bursts Olympic bubble, Italian prez re-elected, Yemeni child soldiers, Peruvian ecocide

34: The organizers of the Beijing Winter Olympics reported on Sunday 34 new COVID infections within the "bubble" set up for the Games, where athletes can only compete if they test negative twice in 24 hours. Troubling news for China's zero-COVID policy.

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COVID at the Beijing Winter Olympics | GZERO World

COVID at the Beijing Winter Olympics

China's zero-COVID strategy will be put to its biggest test to date with the Beijing Winter Olympics approach.

Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, says Chinese officials think they are taking the safest approach, but that may not be enough against the more transmissible omicron variant.

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If You Ain’t First…

If You Ain’t First…

I had a quiet moment at breakfast on Sunday and came across a fascinating study as the Olympics closing ceremony played in the background. From the abstract:

This paper investigates the effects of competition outcomes on health by using U.S. Olympic medalists' lifespans and medal colors as a natural experiment. Whereas the life expectancies of gold and bronze medalists do not differ significantly, life expectancy of silver medalists is about 2.4 and 3.9 years less than these former, respectively. These findings are readily explainable by insights from behavioral economics, psychology, and human biology, which suggest that (perceived) dissatisfactory competition outcomes may adversely affect health.

The authors find that Olympic silver medalists on average live significantly shorter lives than gold and bronze medalists. Gold is not too surprising, but bronze?

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Athletes Likely Exempt From Eventual Beijing 2022 Boycott | IOC's Dick Pound | GZERO World

Would athletes be exempt from a Beijing 2022 Olympics boycott?

Will Western nations boycott next year's Beijing Winter Olympics over China's human rights abuses in Xinjiang? Probably not, says the International Olympic Committee's Dick Pound. But some countries, he anticipates, may opt to only send their athletes — like his native Canada, which has a lot of diplomatic issues with the Chinese. Pound, a former Olympian athlete himself, spoke in an interview with Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

Watch the episode: Politics, protest & the Olympics: the IOC's Dick Pound

Politics, Protest & Sports | International Olympic Committee's Dick Pound | GZERO World

Politics, protest & the Olympics: the IOC’s Dick Pound

With COVID rates rising globally, this year's Olympics faced some major hurdles. But the pandemic was only part of the picture. The Tokyo Games played out against a backdrop of mounting global tension surrounding gender equality, racism and human rights, leaving many people to examine the place of politics on the playing field and podium. On GZERO World, Ian Bremmer looks at the long history of protest at the Games with Dick Pound, the longest serving member of the International Olympic Committee and a former Olympic athlete himself. Plus: the US Women's National Soccer Team is the most decorated team in the sport, but are they paid as much as their male counterparts? A look at what equal pay for equal play means.

Ian Bremmer Explains: The New Olympic Spirit of Protest | GZERO World

The new Olympic spirit of protest

Politics at the Olympics are nothing new. In 1968, two black athletes who won medals in the 200m race raised a fist to protest racial inequality, a move that got them banned from the Olympics for life. A few years later, the IOC introduced Rule 50, which reads: "It is a fundamental principle that sport is neutral and must be separate from political, religious or any other type of interference." As this year's Tokyo Games wrap up, they'll be remembered not just for the pandemic, or the heated local battles over whether they should happen at all. They are also a moment when Rule 50 got squishy. Whether it was soccer players taking a knee, German gymnasts in full body leotards, or Australian athletes holding up an indigenous flag, there's been a lot of protesting going on. And to some extent, the rules have been relaxed - though not everyone agrees they should be.

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