BEIJING (NWN) – The Olympic flame arrived in Beijing on Wednesday amid calls from foreign critics for a boycott of the February 4-20 Winter Games.
Beijing Communist Party Secretary Cai Qi, a senior official in the Chinese capital, received the flames at a ceremony at a heavily guarded airport.
Beijing successfully hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics, although the event did not lead to the more open political and social environment many hoped for in China.
Activist groups disrupted a fire-lighting ceremony in southern Greece on Monday, accusing the International Olympic Committee of the legitimacy of human rights violations in China. IOC officials have stated that they are committed to the continuation of the competition and that human rights issues are not within their purview.
Speaking at the ancient stadium of Olympia, IOC President Thomas Bach said the Games should be “respected as a politically neutral territory.”
Activists said Tuesday that the human rights situation in China has deteriorated since 2008, arguing that the Summer Games “emboldened” China. Over the years, Communist Party leader Xi Jinping has consolidated power over virtually every aspect of Chinese society.
Beijing became the first city to be awarded the rights to host the Summer and Winter Games, largely due to the reluctance of European and North American cities to apply for the 2022 Games.
Meanwhile, human rights activists say China’s crackdown on political critics alongside minority groups including Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims, as well as the crackdown in Hong Kong, should encourage athletes and politicians to avoid the games.
China says viewers from outside China will not be allowed to attend the Winter Games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and athletes must remain in a bubble to guard against the spread of the coronavirus. China has largely eradicated internal transmission of the disease, the first cases of which were detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of 2019.
At the handover ceremony on Wednesday, Beijing Deputy Mayor Zhang Jiangdong said the city is committed to hosting “a simple, safe and great Games.”
According to Zhang, China and the IOC have jointly developed a truncated torch relay that reduces the number of routes and personnel involved.
“We insist on prioritizing public health and safety and are coordinating the torch relay with pandemic control and prevention requirements,” Zhang said.
The fire will be on display over the next few months, and the three-day relay is due to begin on February 2 with some 1,200 torchbearers in Beijing, a suburb of Yanqing and Zhangjiakou in neighboring Hebei province, where ski jumping and other outdoor events will take place. kept.
More NWN Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/olympic-games and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports