Winter olympics

Is football hooliganism on its way back?

Forty-odd years ago a friend, a Liverpool supporter, somewhat unwisely took his girlfriend to Elland Road for a Leeds match against Liverpool. Amid some uproar over the referee, she was hit just above the eye by a sharpened coin chucked by a Leeds fan. The relationship didn’t last, unsurprisingly, but she still has the scar above her right eye. That was in 1982. Four decades on, Leeds fans are still at it — bunging missiles at the opposition. This time at Man U players, who won 4-2 at the weekend. If Leeds fans had lobbed the odd headless cockerel onto the pitch, as I believe sometimes happens in hotter–tempered countries,

Unmasking ‘panda diplomacy’

The star of the Beijing Winter Olympics wasn’t an athlete: it was Bing Dwen Dwen, the spacesuit-clad panda mascot. It was deployed to cover the harsher political edges of the games, and was romping around on the ice at the closing gala. Bing Dwen Dwen is only the latest example of China’s use of ‘panda diplomacy’, so successful over recent decades. The Chinese Communist party has long used them as envoys to potential partners. A bill now wending its way through the US Congress strikes at the heart of panda diplomacy. If it passes, it will keep American-born giant panda cubs in the US, which would break China’s monopoly on

The Chinese Communist Party always medals in moral corruption

The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics draws to a close today, and few will mourn its passing. The spectacle of a totalitarian regime mounting a Games while prosecuting a genocide have rightly drawn denunciations, diplomatic boycotts and precious few television viewers. But this Olympiad was instructive in at least one important respect: to remind the free world how the Chinese Communist Party eventually corrupts everything it touches, for its own ends. To be sure, Xi Jinping’s regime had a willing partner in the International Olympic Committee, whose record of rule-bending is well-known. Its extravagant demands alienated the Norwegian public to such an extent that Oslo withdrew its bid in 2014 to

Ten sports films to watch during the winter Olympics

‘There’s no such thing as bad snow, just bad skiers’ (Popular skiing saying) The 2022 Olympics have to an extent been overshadowed by diplomatic boycotts over host nation China’s alleged human rights abuses. The US, UK, Canada, Australia, Lithuania, Kosovo, Belgium, Denmark, and Estonia will not be sending any ministers or officials. Other countries (New Zealand, Austria, Slovenia, Sweden, and the Netherlands) cite Covid concerns for the lack of official representation. Whether boycotting the event will have any discernible effect is debatable. France’s President Macron certainly doesn’t think so: ‘I don’t think we should politicise these topics, especially if it is to take steps that are insignificant and symbolic.’ On a

Are the Winter Olympics suffering the effects of climate change?

No snow The pistes are covered with artificial snow and the hillsides are bare. Are the Winter Olympics a victim of climate change? — Skiing events at the games are at Yanqing and Zhangjiakou, north-west of central Beijing. Both have arid climates where a remarkable proportion of rain falls in the summer. Yanqing averages just 10mm of rain between December and February, Zhangjiakou just 11mm. London averages 160mm in the same months. Temperatures in the Chinese resorts have been well below freezing this week. The real snow has not melted — it never fell in the first place. Source: Jab done What was your risk of dying of Covid,

China breaks new records in the Surveillance Olympics

Never before have the participants in a major sporting event been so closely monitored as in this Winter Olympics in Beijing. The 1980 Summer Olympics in Soviet Moscow were nothing in comparison. Athletes are competing under a blanket of observation, ostensibly to keep Covid at bay, yet imposed by a paranoid Communist party for whom critical words or thoughts are as dangerous as any virus. Everyone attending the games, including athletes, support staff and media, must install on their phones an app, My 2022, which harvests a wide range of personal data. It has the ability to censor and track its users, according to cybersecurity experts who have examined the

Frozen: can China escape its zero-Covid trap?

To understand what Xi Jinping wants from the Winter Olympics, look at the man chosen to direct the opening ceremony. Zhang Yimou is one of China’s most famous film directors, but his hits (such as Hero and Raise the Red Lantern) are better loved by foreigners than by the Chinese. His job is to wow the outside world with images of China’s power and culture. In a deeply controversial Olympics — already being boycotted by ministers and officials from Britain, the US and many others — he is Beijing’s secret artistic weapon. But unlike the extravagance of Beijing’s 2008 opening ceremony (also directed by Zhang), this Winter Olympics will be

China is right to laugh at the west

Signs of the enervating weakness of the west’s governing elites aren’t that hard to find but the case of the Winter Olympics may be the most demeaning. The UK and Canada have followed the US and Australia in announcing a diplomatic boycott of February’s games in Beijing over China’s human rights record. It’s a crushing blow to the communist dictatorship: Xi Jinping has been unable to sleep or dress himself since learning that the deputy head of the British mission will be skipping the mixed doubles luge final. The UK’s boycott may not even be a boycott, with Boris Johnson saying ‘we do not support sporting boycotts but there are certainly