Beijing began its hosting duties of the 2022 Winter Olympics with the start of the traditional Olympic torch relay Wednesday.
Vice Premier Han Zheng began the event when he passed the iconic torch to 80-year-old Luo Zhihuan, China’s first internationally competitive speed skater and first winter sports world champion, at Olympic Foreign Park.
More than 1,000 torchbearers will carry the Olympic torch through three competition zones, including downtown Beijing and the city of Zhangjiakou in neighboring Hebei province before returning to Beijing for Friday’s opening ceremonies.
The three-day relay is far more constrained than other past relays due to concerns about COVID-19, with only selected members of the public allowed to witness the relay. By comparison, Beijing sent the torch on a global tour ahead of hosting the 2008 Summer Olympics, which drew demonstrators at several stops protesting China’s human rights abuses.
This year, numerous countries have refused to send an official delegation to attend the Beijing Winter Olympics, including the United States, Australia, Britain and Canada.
The Olympics will be held under a so-called “bubble” that requires all Olympic athletes, officials, staff and journalists to remain isolated to keep the virus from potentially spreading into the general public.
Some information for this report came from the Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse.