What to look out for at the Winter Olympics opening ceremony

The director has called the burden ‘heavy’ and promised a ‘new and strengthened vision’ of China

Viewers around the world will be watching on curiously when the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics take place to mark the official start of the Beijing Games 2022 on Friday.

Here’s what we know – and what its director has revealed – about the dramatic launch of more than two weeks of highly-anticipated sporting action.

Where will the Winter Olympics opening ceremony take place?

Known as the ‘Bird’s Nest’, the Beijing National Stadium is about to become the first venue to host both a Summer and Winter Olympics opening ceremony.

A rehearsal fireworks display illuminated the National Stadium, known as ‘The Bird’s Nest,’ where the Winter Olympics ceremony will be held #Beijing2022 pic.twitter.com/avGRuTYuVc

— Reuters (@Reuters) January 31, 2022

That’s because the $428 million stadium was built for the Olympics in 2008, holding a record capacity of more than 89,000 for the football final at those Games, when an Argentina side featuring Lionel Messi beat Nigeria with an Angel di Maria goal.

Its capacity since 2008 has been 80,000, and it is one of the five venues – from a total of seven – that will be used in 2022 as ‘legacy’ stadiums from the previous Chinese Games.

The stadium has also hosted pop concerts, autosport events and football matches between European clubs.

How will the Olympic Torch reach the Beijing Games opening ceremony?

The iconic torch has headed across the three competition zones being used for the Games – Beijing, Yanqing and Zhangjiakou – on a journey that began on Tuesday.

Luo Zhihuan, the world champion speed skater who set a world record in 1,500m long-track speed skating in 1963, was the first of an estimated 1,2000 torchbearers, setting the flame on its way from Beijing Olympic Forest Park.

“I have carried the Olympic flame as a representative of the first generation of Chinese winter sports athletes,” said Luo, addin: “My dream comes true.”

The design of the torch is based on the traditional Chinese idea that ‘Taoism follows the laws of nature, and nature and humanity are one’, draws on the look of the 2008 torch and uses silver and red to symbolize fire and ice.

Who has created the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics?

Film director, writer and producer Zhang Yimou, who directed the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games to acclaim, is responsible for the theatrical spectacular again this time.

“In the wake of the pandemic, the world needs a new and strengthened vision,” Zhang told the Xinhua News Agency.

“Everything is totally different now – China’s status, the image of China in the world and the rise of our national status.

“The burden is very heavy. Of course we know we cannot repeat Beijing 2008, so we are striving to be different from it.”

What can we expect from the Winter Olympics opening ceremony performance?

Zhang is keeping tight-lipped about the details of the ceremony, although he admits to being nervous about a show which will feature only a fifth as many performers as the 15,000 who took part in 2008.

In the National Stadium “bird’s nest”, the opening ceremony of the Beijing WOG was rehearsed for the third time. About 3000 actors and 95% of them were teenagers. The creation principle will be “simple, safe and wonderful”, which will last about 100 minutes.#Beijing2022 pic.twitter.com/VZW74G2qKt

— Jack Sparrow 张梓先生 (@KcwsGZ6ARZbE0GC) January 31, 2022

The chief director has said that the flame will be lit in a style “unprecedented” in Olympic history and suggested that environmental topics and low carbon emissions have featured in his planning.

“This time, the way of lighting will certainly be different,” Zhang revealed, claiming that his cauldron design and lighting will be bold.

The ceremony is expected to run for around 100 minutes with themes of China’s desire for world peace, the Games’ slogan of ‘Together for a shared future’ and the Olympic motto of ‘faster, higher, stronger – together’.

Three rehearsals are said to have taken place during the second half of January, with a final run-through being held on Wednesday. Almost all of the participants are teenagers, with sub-zero temperatures likely to be the greatest challenge they will face on the day.

Who is going to attend the Winter Games opening ceremony?

Chinese president Xi Jinping, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, and Cai Qi, the party secretary of Beijing and the Executive President of Beijing 2022, will be particularly keen for the ceremony to dazzle the world.

Both will be at the ceremony along with a list of international leaders that is expected to include Russian president Vladimir Putin, Serbian leader Aleksandar Vucic and Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

International Olympic Committee boss Thomas Bach is certain to be in the Bird’s Nest, and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the World Health Organization, is said to be attending.

There are sure to be headlines about the dignitaries who will not be attending as part of a diplomatic boycott by numerous countries. The administration led by US president Joe Biden is among the governments to have publicly announced they will not be sending non-sporting representatives to Beijing.

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