Empty stadiums at the Winter Olympics

by Ridhima Vakkalagadda (’24) | February 14, 2022

Art by Ava Hennen (’22)

When people think of the Olympics, they think of thousands of fans cheering on their favorite country or favorite athlete. However, since COVID-19 started, the stands have been completely empty. It’s been four years since the last Winter Olympics, and things have changed significantly with the absence of spectators and implementation of a rigorous testing program. But these aren’t the only factors that have changed the Olympics.

This year, the Winter Olympics are happening in Beijing, which has now become the only city to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics. With new rules from the International Olympic Committee, Beijing was forced to reuse several of its iconic sporting facilities. For example, the National Aquatics Center, which previously hosted Olympic swimming, diving, and artistic swimming, is now being used for Olympic curling. The Wukesong Sports Centre, which hosted the basketball events in the 2008 Summer Olympics, will now cater to both ice hockey and basketball. Alongside these alterations, numerous changes have also been made to address climate change. Organizers of the Olympics this year have had to resort to snow generators and snowblowers, making this the first time athletes will compete entirely on artificial snow. As climate change worsens, this will likely become the norm. Athletes, however, have mixed opinions: while some say the fake snow is better because of its abundance and added grip, others are concerned about its steep cost and higher injury risk.

Since the venue has changed significantly, what happens to the events? This year, the Winter Olympics sees the arrival of seven new events! Along with mixed-gender ski aerials, snowboard cross, ski jumping, and short-track speed skating, the Beijing Games also introduced two entirely new events – the monobob and the Freeski Big Air. These new events were added to help improve gender equality for athletes; in fact, with these new events, females make up 45% of participants at this year’s Olympics, the highest percentage in history. Monobob is exactly what it sounds like: a one-person bobsled race judged on speed. In a traditional bobsled team, the two members take on different roles such as pushing, driving, and braking the sled; in monobob, the lone racer has to do all of these on his or her own. While the monobob event is only for women, the other new event, Freeski Big Air, is an event where men or women ski down a ramp at high speeds, launching into the air to perform incredible tricks. Judges rate skiers based on trick difficulty, execution, height, and landing. 

The 2022 Winter Olympics will feature many new and exciting changes, inspiring audiences while making the Olympics a better place for all of the athletes who participate.

Categories: Sports

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