On Wednesday, the Olympic flame arrived at Beijing amid protests from critics overseas calling for a boycott on the February 4-20 Winter Games.
At a highly guarded airport ceremony, Cai Qi, Beijing’s Communist Party Secretary, was presented with the flame.
Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics, but it was not the open and democratic environment many had hoped for.
On Monday, activists disrupted the flame-lighting ceremony in southern Greece. They accused the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of legitimizing rights abuses in China. Officials from the IOC have stated that they are committed to ensuring that the competition continues and that rights issues do not fall under their purview.
Thomas Bach, President of the IOC, stated that the Games should be considered a neutral political ground in the ancient Olympian stadium.
Tuesday’s activists claimed that human rights in China have declined since 2008. They also claimed that the Summer Games had “emboldened China.” Xi Jinping, the Communist Party leader, has consolidated control over almost all aspects of Chinese society over these years.
Beijing was the first city to receive hosting rights for both the Summer Games and Winter Games. This is largely due to the unwillingness of European and North American cities bid for the 2022 edition.
According to human rights activists, China’s persecution of political critics, as well as minority groups such Tibetan Buddhists or Muslim Uyghurs, and a crackdown on Hong Kong, should cause athletes and politicians not to play in the games.
China has announced that spectators from China will not be permitted to attend the Winter Games due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Athletes must stay in bubbles to prevent the spread of coronavirus. China has effectively stopped domestic transmission of the disease. The first cases were discovered in Wuhan, China’s central city, in late 2019.
Zhang Jiandong, the Deputy Beijing Mayor, stated Wednesday that the city is committed to hosting a “simple and safe” Games.
Zhang stated that China and the IOC collaborated in the design of a truncated torch relay, which reduces the number and complexity of the routes and personnel involved.
Zhang stated, “We insist that public health and safety are our top priorities. We coordinate the torch relay with pandemic prevention and control requirements.”
The flame will be displayed over the next few weeks. A three-day relay will begin Feb. 2 and involve around 1,200 torchbearers from Beijing, Zhangjiakou in neighboring Hebei Province where ski jumping, and other outdoor events will take place.