Viewers around the world will watch with curiosity the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics which will mark the official start of the Beijing 2022 Games on Friday.
Here’s what we know – and what its director has revealed – about the spectacular launch of more than two weeks of highly anticipated sports action.
Where will the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics take place?
Known as the “Bird’s Nest”, Beijing’s National Stadium is set to become the first venue to host both a Summer and Winter Olympics opening ceremony.
Indeed, the $428 million stadium was built for the 2008 Olympics, holding a record capacity of over 89,000 for the football final of those Games, when an Argentine team featuring Lionel Messi beat the Nigeria with a goal from Angel di Maria.
Its capacity since 2008 is 80,000 seats and it is one of five sites – out of a total of seven – which will be used in 2022 as “legacy” stadiums from previous Chinese Games.
The stadium has also hosted pop concerts, motorsport events and European club football matches.
How will the Olympic flame reach the opening ceremony of the Beijing Games?
The iconic torch passed through the three competition areas used for the Games – Beijing, Yanqing and Zhangjiakou – on a journey that began on Tuesday.
Luo Zhihuan, the world speed skating champion who set the 1,500m long track speed skating world record in 1963, was the first of around 1,2000 torchbearers, starting the flame from the Beijing Olympic Forest Park.
“I carried the Olympic flame as a representative of the first generation of Chinese winter sports athletes,” said Luo, adding: “My dream is coming true.”
The torch design is based on the traditional Chinese idea that “Taoism follows the laws of nature, and nature and mankind are one”, draws inspiration from the torch appearance of 2008 and uses silver and red to symbolize fire and ice.
Who created the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics?
Director, screenwriter and producer Zhang Yimou, who successfully conducted the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008, is once again in charge of the theatrical spectacle.
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“In the wake of the pandemic, the world needs a new and strengthened vision”, Zhang told Xinhua News Agency.
“Everything is totally different now – China’s status, China’s image in the world and the rise of our national status.
“The burden is very heavy. Of course, we know we can’t repeat Beijing 2008, so we strive to be different.”
What can we expect from the performance of the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics?
Zhang remains tight-lipped about the details of the ceremony, although he admits to being nervous about a show that will feature only one-fifth the number of performers compared to the 15,000 who took part in 2008.
In the “bird’s nest” of the national stadium, the Beijing WOG opening ceremony was repeated for the third time. About 3000 actors and 95% of them were teenagers. The principle of creation will be “simple, safe and wonderful”, which will last about 100 minutes.#Beijing2022pic.twitter.com/VZW74G2qKt
— Jack Sparrow 张梓先生 (@KcwsGZ6ARZbE0GC) January 31, 2022
The chief manager said the flame would be lit in a style “unprecedented” in Olympic history and suggested that environmental topics and low carbon emissions feature in its planning.
“This time, the lighting mode will certainly be different”, Zhang revealed, saying her cauldron’s design and lighting would be bold.
The ceremony is expected to last about 100 minutes with the themes of China’s desire for world peace, the Games slogan “Together for a shared future” and the Olympic motto “Faster, higher, stronger – together”.
Three rehearsals are said to have taken place in the second half of January, with a final rehearsal on Wednesday. Almost all participants are teenagers, with sub-zero temperatures likely to be the biggest challenge they will face during the day.
Who will attend the opening ceremony of the Winter Games?
Chinese President Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, and Cai Qi, Beijing Party Secretary and Executive Chairman of Beijing 2022, will be particularly keen that the ceremony dazzles the world.
Both will be at the ceremony with a list of international leaders expected to include Russian President Vladimir Putin, Serbian leader Aleksandar Vucic and Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.
The boss of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, will certainly be in the Bird’s Nest, and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization, would be present.
There will certainly be headlines about dignitaries not attending as part of a diplomatic boycott by many countries. The administration led by US President Joe Biden is among the governments to have publicly announced that they will not send non-sporting representatives to Beijing.