Coronavirus, politics, number of Norway medals

Winter Olympic Games turn to play under cloud

Winter Olympics

Photo: Fredrik Varfjell / NTB
Norway’s Therese Johaug leads the way in a World Cup women’s cross-country ski race at the Birkebeiner Ski Stadium in Lillehammer, Norway, on Dec. 5, 2021.

MICHAEL KLEINER
Business and Sports Editor
The Norwegian American

Raise your hand if you’ve heard this before:

Coronavirus hovers over the Olympics

Should the Olympics be postponed?

Politics cloud Olympics

The big cross-country race is at 3 a.m.? 

How many medals will Norway win?

Six months after the rescheduled Summer Olympics in Tokyo took place in a bubble and empty stadiums, it’s Beijing’s turn, as it hosts the Winter Olympics from from Feb 4. to Feb. 20. All we’re dealing with now is the spread of the Omicron variant. 

The final version of The Beijing Playbook was issued Jan. 5, and it has nothing to do with sports x’s and o’s.

The guide is 70 pages of COVID-19 protocols and procedures for athletes, team officials, broadcasters, international federations, marketing partners, Olympic and Paralympic family, press, and workforce. Movement will be in different “closed loop systems,” which seems to be another term for bubble, for fully vaccinated people. Foreign spectators are not allowed, but Chinese fans will be.

“Beijing starts now for all of us,” said International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach in the Jan. 5 press release. “We must do everything to ensure that the Olympic dreams of athletes are not taken away just days before departure. The playbooks are not just a rulebook—they should now be a way of life.”

There is one voice for canceling the games, Swedish Expressen sports commentator Tomas Pettersson told Nettavisen: “The sport cannot handle the pandemic,” he said. “Almost every football league is affected. The junior world ice hockey championship was canceled. Then you have to carry out the biggest championship of all as if nothing has happened. I feel it is a big risk and really completely unnecessary. If the infection gets into the bubble of the Swedish or Norwegian cross-country national team, the Olympics are a joke. I do not want to experience such an Olympics.”

No worry for the diplomats

On Dec. 6, President Joe Biden announced a diplomatic boycott of the China Olympics “to protest the PRC’s [People’s Republic of China] egregious human rights abuses,” said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. Keeping the diplomats home meant, to requote Bach above, “the Olympic dreams of athletes are not taken away,” as in 1980, when the United States led a 44-nation, including China, boycott of the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. Then, the Soviet Union and 13 allies boycotted the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, stating their athletes wouldn’t be safe.

Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, and Lithuania have joined the United States in the 2022 boycott.

A Dec. 16 article in Time notes that with COVID-19 and the strict protocols China was putting in place, fewer representatives were likely to attend anyway. China “accused the boycotting nations of politicizing sports and threatening that they would ‘pay a price for their erroneous actions.’”

“Those games are not going to be canceled,” Canadian Dick Pound, the longest serving member on the IOC, said in Time. “People need to understand that. China also needs to know that there’s now a line in the sand, which is twofold: one is that the games will go on, and two—that a number of countries in the world are going to require China to address some of these concerns in a meaningful way.” 

Would it have been better to have worked toward not awarding the Games to China in the first place?

Yawn!

This is the third straight Olympics in Asia. The time difference to China is 13 hours from the U.S. East Coast, 16 hours from the West Coast. Once again, we are facing events occurring in the middle of the night. NBC is broadcasting the games again, and its Peacock station will livestream “every minute of every live event that airs on broadcast and cable TV.” Will Americans will be able to see an entire cross-country race?

Norway medal collection will be …

In the history of the Winter Olympics, Norway has won 368 medals, 63 more than the United States, with 132 gold, 125 silver, 111 bronze. Italy and France have each won 124 medals total. Norway has won eight Olympics, including 2018 with an Olympic record 39 (14-14-11), eight better than Germany. Norway has continued to dominate on the snow. In the combined snow events at the 2021 world championships, Norway totaled 48 medals (22-14-12). 

What kind of trove can they get this year? The Norwegian Olympic Committee has a “modest” goal of 32. Gracenote’s virtual medal table forecast on Dec. 25 and Jan. 5 had Norway bringing home 45 medals (22-12-11/22-13-10). In the next few pages, we share the top Norwegians in each event Norway is participating, their top competition, and our outlook. You’ll be ready when the games begin.

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 21, 2022, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.

Michael Kleiner

Michael Kleiner, business and sports editor, has more than three decades of experience as an award-winning journalist and public relations professional. He has operated his own PR and web design business for small businesses, authors and community organizations in Philadelphia since 1999. Not of Norwegian descent, he lived in Norway for a year with his family at age 11 and has returned as an adult. He is the author of a memoir, Beyond the Cold: An American’s Warm Portrait of Norway, and a member of the Norwegian American Chamber of Commerce Philadelphia. Visit Kleinerprweb.com; beyondthecold.com.

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