The year of the tiger eclipses the Olympic panda

Beijing’s parks and avenues are lined with red Lunar New Year lanterns. The streets are deserted as families gather at their homes to c...


Beijing’s parks and avenues are lined with red Lunar New Year lanterns. The streets are deserted as families gather at their homes to celebrate the year of the tiger. The five-ring symbol of the Olympic Games and the Winter Games mascot panda soft toy are barely visible.

Winter sports enthusiasts around the world turn to Beijing as Winter Olympics start Friday. But in the Chinese capital itself, outside of the “closed circuit” bubble for participants, there are few signs of Olympic fever.

The main reason seems to be the time of year. The arrival of Lunar new year was celebrated in China on Monday evening. The whole week, until Sunday, is a national holiday in mainland China. Many shops, restaurants and other public places are closed.

Pandemic precautions are another reason for silence in Beijing. Before the pandemic, an influx of tour groups from the country’s hinterland flocked to the capital each winter during the holidays. Not this year.

Most tourism across provincial borders has been banned in China this winter to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The city of Beijing has been strict about banning tour groups outside the city.

But returning home is still allowed. Many Chinese did not return to their hometowns the last two Lunar New Years when coronavirus vaccines were not widely available, but they are returning this year. Data from the Department for Transport shows that long-haul holiday travel in the two weeks leading up to Lunar New Year has increased by half compared to the same period in 2021.

Beijing residents who have not left the city have limited options for going out. Local authorities are telling groups booking restaurants or other venues over the next few weeks that they must accept vaguely defined legal liability if someone at their event is infected with the coronavirus.

Still, there are indications in Beijing that the Olympics are underway. Special lanes have been created on the highways for Olympic vehicles. Some signs have been placed on the sides of roads and buses. In Zhangjiakou, an area near Beijing that will host outdoor events like cross-country skiing, the streets have been decorated with Olympic signs.

The muted approach is nonetheless a big contrast to the 2008 Summer Olympics, which took place in August and prompted residents to flood the sunny sidewalks and cheer on the Games.

Li you contributed to the research.

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Newsrust - US Top News: The year of the tiger eclipses the Olympic panda
The year of the tiger eclipses the Olympic panda
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