FORGET the Chinese New Year of the Tiger – this is truly the Year of Sports.
And it began Friday amid a flurry of fireworks and fanfare in a low-temperature Beijing.
From the fake snow of a Winter Olympic Games being held in China for a desert World Cup in Qatar that ends a few days before Christmas, it will be a year like no other for the rogue sports nations.
And when you enjoy the hundreds of millions of dollars splurged by the Saudis on Newcastle and shining new golf tournaments, 2022 looks pretty boring.
In the wrong hands, top sport is used as a political tool.
An opportunity to erase or forget a nation’s appalling human rights atrocities.
An opportunity for oppressive leaders or regimes to restore their global reputation.
And the next 16 days of Chinese superpower competition will be no different.
IOC President Thomas Bach proudly stood alongside Chinese President Xi Jinping during yesterday’s opening ceremony at the Bird’s Nest as Russian President Vladimir Putin watched.
Even before the contortion game was launched, these controversial Games were influenced and reinforced by politics.
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The UK government did not send any representatives to participate in a political boycott supported by the US, Canada, India, Australia and the Netherlands.
It comes amid allegations of genocide against the Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang province, with allegations of forced labor, rape, sexual abuse and sterilization.
It takes place against the backdrop of Hong Kong and Tibet’s ongoing repression and detention of journalists and dissidents.
And it comes amid sexual assault allegations brought by tennis star Peng Shuai against a former politician, leading to her disappearance from public view.
The IOC, of course, has suffered from snow since Beijing was named the first city in 126 years to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics.
Rob Koehler of the pressure group Global Athlete, which works with more than 1,000 athletes from 62 countries, says the Olympic leaders deserve all the criticism – not the participating stars.
The IOC knows the problems when they bid. They know it’s getting worse. They allow them to host it. Shame on them.
Rob Koehler of Global Athletes
Koehler told SunSport: “I blame the IOC for putting the athletes in this position. In 2008, the Olympics were used for change towards China, in order to improve human rights.
“The IOC was aware of the problems in 2022 when they bid. They know it’s getting worse.
“They gave them permission to host the Olympics. Shame on them.”
Featuring classical music including Land of Hope and Glory and William Tell Overture, a troupe of 56 strong GB teams – including about 30 athletes – marched into this iconic venue.
Alpine skier Dave Ryding and billiard captain Eve Muirhead raised the GB flag together as they marked their fourth Olympics in 12 years.
This squad, backed by around £20m in funding from British Sport, may not reach the magical heights once enjoyed by Torvill and Dean or Robin Cousins.
However, there is great hope that they can match, or even better, the total medal record won by Britain at Sochi 2014 and Pyeongchang 2018.
While the competitions take place on artificial snow and indoor ice, there will be representatives from warm-weather countries such as Cyprus, Eritrea, Ghana, Haiti, Madagascar, Morocco, Nigeria and Puerto Rico.
And then there are the Jamaicans, led by former international DJ born in Northamptonshire, Benjamin Alexander, who only started skiing six years ago, and sleigh pilot Shanwayne Stephens of Peterborough.
The image of athletes smiling and waving to the crowd reminds us of the power of the Olympics, the way it represents the best of humanity.
But against a backdrop of glitz, glamor, and snowflakes, we might one day think of 2022 as the year when it’s all hit.
TRIBUTE TO PIONEER
RUPERT STAUDINGER will honor the legacy of one of Team GB’s greatest pioneers.
Six weeks ago, Adam Rosen died of cancer at the age of 37.
Rosen was born in New York but competed in three Olympic games for England in the luge qualifying, the last time at Pyeongchang 2018 when he was in poorer equipment and without UK Sports sponsorship.
Known as ‘AJ’, he still ranks 22nd – exemplifying his decisive meaning and fighting spirit.
In honor of his friend Staudinger, 24, will today have the ‘RIP AJ’ sign on his helmet as he races in the luge for Team GB at Yanqing National Skating Center.
Staudinger, who was born in Germany, says: “Obviously, AJ is more than a friend to me.
“Those who saw me at the Winter Olympics last year would have found us very close. He used to be my tutor.
“I was very sad to hear of his death.
“The memories of him, they will surely last forever. To be fair, he’s definitely the best luger we’ve had. ”
BRITS ICE OZ RIVALS
BRITAIN did what Joe Root couldn’t by defeating Australia in the top level competition.
Where England’s cricket captain has failed this winter with bat and ball, Bruce Mouat and Jennifer Dodds’ mixed doubles have proven successful with kicks against our foes from Down Under.
This Ashes on Ice clash has come to an extra end as the British have the demise of the middle order.
They led 6-1 after four ends but the Aussies drew 8-8.
But in the final matches, the British – facing Italy and the Czech Republic today – won 9-8, meaning they have three wins out of four.
Dodds, 30, said: “I’m really proud of the way we’ve played.”
Mouat, 27, revealed: “I spoke to my sports psychologist after the defeat to Switzerland and she sent me back to the headspace on the right.”
Brothers in HARMS
NIALL TREACY could be kicked off the rink – by his BROTHER.
The Nottingham-based short-distance speed skater only raced the men’s 1,000m.
The heatwave started today and siblings Farrell, 26, and Niall, 21, were kept apart. But they could meet in the knockout stages on Monday.
“It’s pretty crazy,” Niall said. You want him to do well but you’re also there for yourself.
“There will be a flash in your subconscious that you will know he is your brother and you will think: ‘Don’t kill him!’
https://www.the-sun.com/sport/4617830/winter-olympics-beijing-qatar-world-cup-2022/ Winter Olympics in Beijing kick off Sports Year with World Cup in Qatar ending an embarrassing 12 months of 2022