Sat. May 28th, 2022

After 19 days of competition featuring both memorable moments and swirling controversies, the Beijing 2022 Winter Games are coming to an end with a Closing Ceremony that got underway on Sunday night.


Athletes from the 91 countries and territories that participated in the Games entered Beijing’s Bird Nest stadium in an informal procession, mingling together in heavy winter gear and waving flags on a stadium floor composed of video screens to look like an icy surface.

Greece, home of the ancient Olympics, was the first delegation to enter, followed by teams in alphabetical order under their Chinese names.

Carrying the flag for Team USA was bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor, who was originally chosen to do the honors at the Opening Ceremony but missed out due to COVID-19. The 37-year-old picked up a silver in the monobob and a bronze in the two-man bobsleigh, bringing her total Olympic haul to five medals – making her the most decorated Black athlete in Winter Games history.

Chinese President Xi Jinping clapped along to the jubilant entrance fanfare and waved to the assembled athletes.

After a video recap of highlights from the Games, the final two medal ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics were held for the men’s 50-kilometer and women’s 30-kilometer cross-country skiing events.

Alexander Bolshunov of the Russian Olympic Committee took the men’s gold, while Therese Johaug of Norway won the women’s event.

America’s Jessie Diggins picked up the silver, her second medal of the Games after winning bronze in the women’s sprint.

The ceremony is once again being helmed by Zhang Yimou, the famed filmmaker who directed the Opening Ceremony, as well as the extravaganzas at the Beijing 2008 Summer Games. It is a relatively subdued affair featuring 1,000 performers in what organizers say will continue the theme of a “simple, safe and splendid” Olympics.

Beijing officials certainly succeeded on the safety front, with a stringent closed-loop bubble that kept the Games running smoothly amid a global Covid-19 pandemic.

Since Jan. 23, there have been only 437 positive cases reported among the nearly 70,000 athletes, officials, workers and journalists inside the Games’ closed-loop bubble.

“With an infection rate of 0.01, it was one of the safest places on the planet, if not the safest place on the planet and this is a great achievement,” International Olympics Committee President Thomas Bach said on Friday.

However, neither the Beijing organizers nor the IOC could manage to control more troubling storylines from stealing the spotlight.

The doping saga around Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva and the decision by arbitrators to allow her to compete in the women’s single final drew widespread outrage.

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