Parks and boulevards in Beijing are filled with red lanterns to celebrate the Lunar New Year. The streets are empty as families gather around their homes to celebrate the Lunar New Year. The five-ring emblem of the Olympics and the cuddly panda mascot of the Winter Olympics are barely visible.
Winter sports lovers around the globe are eyeing Beijing as the Winter Olympics kick off on Friday. But in the Chinese capital itself, outside of the “closed-loop” bubble for participants, there is little sign of Olympic fever.
The biggest reason seems to be the time of year. Lunar New Year was celebrated in China on Monday night. The whole week, until Sunday, is a national holiday in mainland China. Many shops, restaurants and other public areas are closed.
Pandemic precaution is another reason for silence in Beijing. Before the pandemic, a flurry of tour groups from the interior of the country flocked to the capital each winter during the holiday. Not this year.
Most cross-border travel to provinces has been banned in China this winter to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The city of Beijing has banned tour groups from leaving the city.
But traveling home is still allowed. Many Chinese did not return to their hometowns on the two previous Lunar New Year holidays, when a coronavirus vaccine was not widely available, but they will return this year. Data from the Ministry of Transport shows that the number of tourists taking long-term vacations in the two weeks before the Lunar New Year has increased by one and a half times compared to the same period in 2021.
Beijingers who haven’t left town have limited options to go out. Local authorities are telling groups that book restaurants or other venues over the next few weeks that they must accept well-defined liability if anyone at their event becomes infected with the coronavirus.
However, there are some signs in Beijing that the Olympics are underway. Special lanes have been marked on the highway for Olympic vehicles. Some signs have been placed on curbs and buses. In Zhangjiakou, an area near Beijing that hosts outdoor events like cross-country skiing, the streets have been decorated with Olympic signs.
The muted approach, however, is a big contrast to the 2008 Summer Olympics, which were held in August and sent people spilling onto the sunny sidewalks and cheering the Games.
Li You research contributions.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/02/sports/olympics/lunar-new-year-olympics.html Year of the Tiger controls Olympic panda