Published: 19:06, January 26, 2022 | Updated: 00:31, January 27, 2022
Asian countries extend support for Beijing Winter Olympics
By Xu Weiwei and Jan Yumul in Hong Kong

The Olympic flame for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics is on display in Beijing, capital of China, on Dec 29, 2021. (PHOTO / IC)

Athletes and leaders of countries in South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East look forward to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics as a grand event and success.

In South Asia, Pakistan’s top skier, Muhammad Karim, is all set to represent his country at the Games in Beijing in February. Karim from Pakistan's northern Gilgit-Baltistan region, 26, is eyeing his first winter Olympic medal, and is hopeful that the Beijing Winter Olympics will play a significant role in his career and boost his confidence as it is a mega event.

"The Winter Olympics is a major event, and athletes from many countries are trying to improve their skills to hold a good position in the Olympics," he told Xinhua in an earlier interview.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is himself a sportsman, is also expected to attend the opening ceremony on Feb 4 in Beijing

"The US has done a very bad thing, but it will not have any effect. Pakistan as a close friend of China fully supports it (Beijing Winter Olympics), and we are very excited about the event."

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Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is himself a sportsman, is also expected to attend the opening ceremony on Feb 4 in Beijing.

PM Khan’s visit to Beijing is not only demonstrating Pakistan’s standing with China in the spirit of sportsmanship and international Olympics which are a non-political event, but also indicative of the Pakistan-China all-weather strategic partnership, said Mustafa Hyder Sayed, executive director of the Pakistan-China Institute.

 “The visit is demonstrative of the fact that Pakistan stands with China, at a time when certain countries are trying to politicize the Beijing Olympics, and Pakistan rejects it,” he added.

Salman Bashir, former foreign secretary of Pakistan, said that people in his country admire the excellent preparations made by China, and they look forward to viewing this grand event virtually and congratulate their Chinese friends for hosting the Winter Olympics. “Beijing Winter Olympics 2022 will be a great success,” he said.

“Besides being a spectacular sporting event, the Olympics will show case the splendid achievements of the Chinese people in all domains and their exceptional skills in organizing world class events with great imagination, style and finesse,” he added, “This was also demonstrated at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which were witnessed by over a hundred heads of state and government.” 

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Other South Asian countries also expressed their opposition to the US-led boycott of the sporting event. For Maldives, its Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid said he expects to attend the opening ceremony of the upcoming Winter Olympic during a visit by Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Maldives in early January. Wang welcomed Shahid to attend the opening ceremony as the President of the United Nations General Assembly. Shahid said that he is looking forward to the trip to Beijing and believe that the Beijing Olympic Winter Games will be a great success.

Shahid becomes the second top UN official to attend the Winter Olympics amid a Western “diplomatic boycott”, while UN chief Antonio Guterres first said he would attend the Games' opening ceremony.

In India, Arif Khan, a skier from the conflict-ridden Kashmir, is the sole qualifier from for the Beijing Winter Olympics. "It’s going to be a big responsibility, being one in a billion and carrying the flag. That will be an inspirational moment,” the 31-year-old Khan told Reuters.

Arif Khan said that skiing is not a popular sport in India, with little financial support being the biggest challenge, according to the Times of India.

Neighboring Bhutan, despite being one of the world’s most well-known mountainous countries, has never joined any of the Winter Games in the past.

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For Central Asia, leaders of five Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan said they will attend the opening ceremony of the 2022 Winter Olympics showing support for the event.

Despite civil unrest and pandemic, the Kazakhstan team of around 30 athletes are getting ready for Beijing Games. A few days ago, the central Asian nation’s Olympic team unveiled its Beijing 2022 uniform that feature name in the native Kazakh language for first ever time. Previously English spelling of Kazakhstan had been on the outfits of athletes representing the country, and the name change had been approved by the International Olympic Committee.

In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia has become the first ever Gulf country to participate at the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Beijing. On Jan 19, the Saudi Olympics and Paralympic Committee announced that skier Fayik Abdi will officially be representing the Arab nation in Alpine skiing races.

Abdulaziz Albaqous, director of Corporate Communications at the Saudi Arabian Olympic and Paralympic Committee, expressed his excitement over Saudi’s participation in the games, Xinhua reported, adding that the Olympic movement has shown how solid and united it is even amid tough times.

Iranian skiers Seyed Sattar Seyd, Hossein Saveh Shemshaki and Atefeh Ahmadi will be representing their country at the Winter Games. The Tehran Times reported that Seyd will compete at cross-country skiing while Saveh Shemshaki and Ahmadi will participate in the alpine category.

Reza Salehi Amiri, president of Iran's National Olympic Committee said that he planned to attend Beijing 2022 with Iranian Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs Hamid Saijadi.

Israel’s delegation to the Winter Olympics in Beijing will consist of six athletes, the Times of Israel reported. Israeli skating duo Hailey Kops and Evgeni Krasnopolsky will be competing in the games alongside Hungarian-born siblings and Alpine skiers Noa Szollos and Barnabas Szollos, Vladislav Bykanov and Alexei Bychenko.

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From Lebanon, three athletes have been qualified to compete in the Winter Games. Manon Ouaiss is the only female athlete representing the country. The two other athletes joining her are cross-country skier Elie Tawk and alpine skier Cesar Arnouk.

Turkey will be sending a seven-member delegate to the Winter Games. Among them are Turkish alpine skier Ozlem Carikcioglu, ski jumper Fatih Arda Ipcioglu, known as the “Flying Turk”, and speed skater Furkan Akar, according to a report by Xinhua.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu noted earlier this month that Beijing will become the only city to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics, and he believed that the Beijing Winter Olympics will be as successful as the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.