Here comes the Winter Olympics opening day

Friday:Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony; (BBC One, 11.30am)

By Claire Cartmill
Thursday, 3rd February 2022, 5:00 pm

It wouldn’t be a major sporting event without a bit of controversy beforehand.

And this year’s Winter Olympics has certainly had its fair share.

The build-up has been somewhat overshadowed by diplomatic boycotts, concerns over China’s human rights record, the treatment of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai and, of course, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Winter Olympics 2022 presenters Aimee Fuller, Ayo Akinwolere, Clare Balding, Hazel Irvine, Jeanette Kwakye, JJ Chalmers

However, despite a troubled road to the games, Beijing is set become the first city to stage both the Summer and Winter Olympics, with the cauldron officially ignited at the iconic Beijing International (Bird’s Nest) Stadium.

As with most opening ceremonies, there will be welcoming speeches, hoisting of the flags and the parade of athletes, with an artistic spectacle to showcase the host nation’s culture and modern history.

The spectacle will be headed by Zhang Yimou, the director responsible for creating the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing — generally considered one of the best in history.

However, this event will be considerably shorter than that, featuring roughly 3,000 artists – compared to 15,000 from 2008 – due to the cold weather and Covid restrictions.

It will feature three major themes: world peace, the Olympic legacy and Beijing 2022’s motto “Together for a Shared Future”.

Over the next 16 days, winter sports fans can expect thrills, spills and plenty of adrenalin-fuelled action in and around the Chinese capital.

We will see the Olympic debut of seven new events: Women’s Monobob, Men’s and Women’s Big Air (Freestyle Skiing), Mixed Team Snowboard Cross, Mixed Team Aerials, Mixed Team Short Track Relay, and Mixed Team Ski Jumping.

In total, there will be 109 medal events across 15 sports. And while it will be great to watch amazing performances from world-class athletes going for gold, we would all like a bit of British interest to get behind.

Over 50 Team GB athletes have travelled to Beijing, hoping to match or even better the five medals won at the previous two Games, Sochi 2014 and Pyeongchang 2018.

So who are Great Britain’s best hopes for success in China?

West Yorkshire-born daredevil Katie Ormerod is among the contenders in the Snowboard Slopestyle, while in the Snowboard Cross – Charlotte Bankes won a gold medal in the high-octane Big final at the World Championships in December.

Aberdeen-based teenager Kirsty Muir is tipped for big things in the Freestyle Skiing, and Gus Kenworthy is competing in his final Games – can he secure a podium place in the Slopestyle?

Izzy Atkin is already an Olympic bronze medallist following her Slopestyle success in Pyeongchang, while 35-year-old Lancastrian Dave Ryding is posting better numbers than ever in the Alpine Skiing.

On the ice, Curling Mixed Doubles pairing Bruce Mouat and Jen Dodds were crowned world champions in Calgary last year and, in the same sport, Eve Muirhead is set to lead Team GB’s women in her fourth games.

Mica McNeill and Adele Nicoll are looking to follow up their sensational World Cup silver in the women’s bobsleigh, while Team GB’s hopes of skeleton glory may rest with Marcus Wyatt who secured a silver medal in the test event at Beijing’s new, state-of-the-art, dragon-inspired track in November.

Following today’s opening ceremony, Ayo Akinwolere kicks off coverage on BBC One at 12.25am with the Curling, Slopestyle and Ice Hockey action.

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