© Reuters. Beijing 2022 Olympics – Swimming – Mixed Doubles – Match 1 – Sweden v England – National Aquatics Center, Beijing, China – 2nd February 2022. Oskar Eriksson of Sweden participated. REUTERS / Evelyn Hockstein
By Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Yew Lun Tian
BEIJING (Reuters) – Mixed doubles volley opened the competition at the Beijing Winter Olympics on Wednesday as the shadow of war in Ukraine, and the impending arrival of Russian President Vladimir Putin , looming over an event that has been transformed by the coronavirus pandemic.
China and Britain have claimed victory in the “Ice Cube”, where American swimmer Michael Phelps won eight gold medals at the 2008 Summer Olympics when it was called the “Water Cube”, Opening for the events runs until February 20. in front of a sparse crowd due to COVID-19 curbside.
Basketball player Yao Ming and a Chinese soldier injured in an earlier border clash with India took part in a torch relay that lasted only three days and was viewed by only select members of the public. before the Olympic cauldron was lit.
But the political confrontation between Putin and the West over Ukraine remains the main action of the Olympics ahead of Friday’s opening ceremony, which the Russian president will attend to show unity with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Bin Binh.
“Putin is very busy right now. He’s here because he has to,” said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing. “Putin knows China is indispensable to Russia, just as Russia is indispensable to China.”
While many Western countries, including the US, UK and Australia, are boycotting the Winter Olympics over China’s human rights diplomatically, Mr. Putin will join some friendly leaders. with Beijing at the Olympics.
Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, Imran Khan of Pakistan and Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyhan of the United Arab Emirates are among a number of Middle Eastern and Asian leaders expected to attend. From Europe, only Poland and Serbia said they would send their heads of state.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will also attend the opening ceremony, telling reporters last month that it was not a “political visit”.
“The Olympic ideal is something we have to cherish, and that’s why I’m going.”
Mr. Putin, who on Tuesday accused the West of luring Russia into the war, did not say whether he would meet other world leaders while in Beijing.
However, his talks with Mr. Xi will be closely watched for signs of growing cooperation between China and Russia, which has grown closer as China’s ties grow. both with the West have become weakened.
The Kremlin said that Putin and Xi will spend “a lot of time” discussing security in Europe and the demands Russia has on the West, and Putin will certainly brief his Chinese counterpart. on Russia’s negotiations with NATO.
Putin will fly to Beijing on Thursday and he and Xi will have lunch together on Friday and possibly sign more than 15 agreements, Kremlin aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters. Russia and China will discuss greater gas and financial cooperation, he said.
He said serious efforts are being made to create a common financial infrastructure that is resistant to sanctions.
Russia is reportedly not present at the Olympics as part of doping sanctions designed to punish Moscow for having censored laboratory data to help international anti-doping agencies identify drug fraud.
Mr. Putin will watch Russia’s athletes compete in the third consecutive Olympics without their flag and anthem.
Alexander Gabuev, chair of the Russia Program in the Asia-Pacific at the Carnegie Moscow Center, predicts that Putin and Xi could reach an agreement to increase the capacity of Power of Siberia, a 4,000-kilometer pipeline ( 2,485 miles) transfers gas from eastern Russia. to China.
“Even if we put the whole international political situation aside, this will be an important visit in which a decisions that can be made.
THE WEST’S STAND
While increased cooperation between Russia and China may alarm the West, analysts expect Xi to be on the right track when it comes to Ukraine.
Bonny Lin, a senior fellow and director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said China may want the situation in Ukraine to increase US diplomatic attention. without asking Beijing to take sides.
“Beijing said this: It is not in its best interest to have a real conflict in Ukraine,” she said.
“The best-case scenario for China is to more or less maintain the status quo, maybe improve a bit, but attract enough attention to divert the US from the Indo-Pacific, but not really.” forcing China to do anything or bear any hard costs.”
Derek Grossman, senior defense analyst at RAND Corporation, said the US will have a responsibility to demonstrate to the rest of its allies in the region that they are not so distracted by Ukraine that they forget about China.
US State Department spokesman Neil Price said at a news conference on Monday that the Biden administration was more prepared to manage its multifaceted diplomatic efforts.
“We’re a big country. We’re a large part. We shouldn’t use an overused metaphor anymore, but we can chew gum while walking.”