An installation featuring Bing Dwen Dwen, the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Mascot and Shuey Rhon Rhon, the 2022 Beijing Winter Paralympic Games Mascot, are pictured in Beijing, China. Picture: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters
An installation featuring Bing Dwen Dwen, the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Mascot and Shuey Rhon Rhon, the 2022 Beijing Winter Paralympic Games Mascot, are pictured in Beijing, China. Picture: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

Beijing Games and the relentlessness of the human spirit

By Buyile Matiwane Time of article published Jan 13, 2022

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Nelson Mandela once said: “Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.”

South Africa has always been a sport-loving nation, and in our darkest hours, sport has always been a source of unity and cohesion. As such, any and all South Africans should be eagerly awaiting the upcoming Beijing Olympics to be held from February 4 to 20, followed by the Paralympics to be held from March 4 to 13.

The Olympic Games, especially during these difficult times of the pandemic, may not only serve as a temporary reprieve from the pandemic but also stimulate the kind of optimism necessary to drive a return to normalcy.

It may very well be divine serendipity that the last time the Olympics were hosted in Beijing was in the wake of the 2007/2008 financial crisis, and even amid the challenges that were precipitated by those conditions, memorable and exciting Games were hosted.

We seem to have come full circle, hosting the Games under very similar circumstances of global strife and the need to rediscover hope. Besides the 2008 Games having a real impact in helping stimulate global recovery, they also came with every material advantage for China.

The 2008 Games saw Beijing and China accelerate investment in sustainable transport, public health, and renewable energy, important legacies still felt today.

UN secretary-general António Guterres, who has accepted an invitation from the IOC to attend the Beijing Winter Games, has said: “The Olympic spirit brings out humanity’s best: teamwork and solidarity. Talent. Tolerance.”

With the world still battling challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic and the climate crisis, compassion, solidarity, and friendship among nations have never been more critical.

Global events like the Olympics garner worldwide attention and need a phenomenal joint task to make them work. These efforts at making the Olympics work build practical understanding and cohesion towards commonality, tolerance and mutual respect.

It is a breath of fresh air that China and the UN have been working together to ensure that the Olympics are a success. The UN Environment Programme’s office in China has also provided technical support and advice on the development of national policy initiatives in support of preparations for a green and sustainable Games.

The return of the Paralympic Games is also an important reminder of the challenges persons with disabilities face daily and should serve as a catalyst for authorities and relevant stakeholders to allow persons with disabilities to realise their full potential, and leave no one behind.

Thanks to its institutional strength in mobilising all available resources, China is prepared to welcome athletes from around the world to enjoy the sports event, whose official motto is Together for a Shared Future.

Just as the pandemic has made health a central consideration of governments and people everywhere, the Games bring into focus the importance of physical fitness.

Traditional Chinese culture has long regarded physical fitness as an essential characteristic. While inspecting the Winter Olympic Village, which will provide more than 3 000 beds and business services to the athletes and officials travelling to the Olympics from around the world, President Xi Jinping called for well-tailored services to be provided to the athletes, particularly by increasing the barrier-free facilities for those with disabilities and building a “safe, pleasant and comfortable home” for them.

President Xi also stressed the need to strictly follow closed-loop management in the village and strengthen pandemic prevention and control measures.

We, as South Africa, a peace-loving, sport-loving nation, must support and participate fully in the upcoming Olympics. We wish all our sportsmen and women all the best and are eager to watch the Olympics on our TV screens across the country.

* Matiwane is the Deputy President of the South African Students Congress

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media and IOL.

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