We are now entering what I like to call the “limbo period” of the spring semester, where we’re far from winter break while also being far from spring break. To be honest, I’m beginning to feel that all-too-familiar monotony start to creep in. Classes are routine, homework and study schedules are stone and everything slows down as the days drag on. Factor in that the snow and the cold keeps us trapped indoors while the pandemic lurks in the background, and you’re left longing for something exciting to happen. But what can be exciting in these desperate times?
Answer: the 2022 Winter Olympics.
The 2022 Winter Olympics, hosted in Beijing, China, began on Feb. 4—although competition officially kicked off a few days earlier. At these games, there are a total of 15 different disciplines of sports for the 84 respective countries competing. While a number of events are held in the host city, there are also two separate sites—Yanqing and Zhangjiakou—that host the more mountainous sports. Among those competing, Team USA has sent over 220 athletes to Beijing this year, which is no small feat considering the stringent pandemic protocols each country has to follow.
With this in mind, I actually think that the positive and negative aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic—both in and out of the games—contribute to the surrealism and entertainment of the Olympics. Watching the games, one gets to watch these athletes celebrate or despair in front of the world, while also battling with the restrictions of their COVID-19 isolation. One sees medals being won and records being broken, all while families and loved ones celebrate back home. And one witnesses history being made and superstars being born despite the nearly empty stadiums.
Outside of the Olympics, the political realities surrounding these games also contribute to the viewer’s experience. Things like the United States’ diplomatic boycott due to the host nation’s treatment of the minority Uyghur population and Russia’s impending invasion of Ukraine both loom over the Olympics in a subtle, yet ever-present way.
Given these circumstances both on and off camera, it is astonishing and so exciting to watch all of this unfold. To see such a contrast between the highs and lows of athletic excellence grounded by the realities of our times creates a captivating, almost otherworldly experience. It places you in a situation where you’re stuck between being in awe of the grandeur of the game, while simultaneously feeling the weight of the world’s current affairs lingering in the background.
As the 2022 Winter Olympics draw to a close this week, I for one can’t wait to continue watching. The dynamics of this year’s Olympic games have been a welcome refuge of distraction, entertainment and variety in this rather dreary period of the semester. Given all of the current turmoil, I think we should all be lucky to even have them occur in the first place.
For those of you who want to check out the rest of the games, be sure to tune in this weekend to see the final competitions and the Closing Ceremony this Sunday, Feb. 20.