Between COVID-19 and diplomatic boycotts, it has been hard to focus on the actual Winter Olympics taking place in Beijing from Feb. 4-20. Nevertheless, these games will have their own unique look and feel for viewers watching them. Here are five fast facts about the 2022 Winter Olympics.
1. Limited attendance
Because of COVID-19, the Beijing Olympics initially announced that only residents of the host country would be able to attend. Then the first detected case of the Omicron variant was reported on Jan. 17. Ticket sales were canceled, and spectators will be allowed by invitation only.
2. Smaller budget
It is hard to call a $3.9 billion budget small unless you are comparing it to the $43 billion spent on the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Part of the savings comes from the fact that Beijing is the first city to host both a Winter and Summer Games and will reuse some of the facilities it built for 2008.
3. Zhangshanying and Zhangjiakou
Much of the Olympics will be held in Beijing proper, but the alpine events will take place in the cities of Zhangshanying and Zhangjiakou. Zhangshanying is a little more than 50 miles northwest of downtown Beijing and Zhangjiakou is 140 miles away in the same direction. However, this is not the first time Olympic events have taken place far outside of their host city. For example, the 1996 Summer games in Atlanta spanned four states and Washington, D.C.
4. Beijing–Zhangjiakou intercity railway
To make it easier to travel to Zhangshanying, which will host the luge, skeleton, bobsleigh, and alpine skiing competitions, the Jingzhang Intercity Railway Company constructed the Beijing–Zhangjiakou intercity railway. The world's first driverless high-speed railway opened in 2019 and cut travel time between the two cities from over three hours to less than 50 minutes.
5. Bing Dwen Dwen
Every Winter Olympics has a mascot, and Beijing is no different. The mascot for this year's games is a panda bear in a suit of ice named Bing Dwen Dwen (panda bears are native to China). The mascot for the 2022 Winter Paralympics is an anthropomorphic Chinese lantern named Shuey Rhon Rhon.
— Written by Aaron Tallent, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Tallent is a writer whose articles have appeared in The Sweet Science, FOX Sports' Outkick the Coverage, Liberty Island and The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter at @AaronTallent.