Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr interacts with a volunteer of Beijing Winter Olympics. Photo: Official WeChat account of China University of Geosciences (Beijing)
As the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics come to an end, Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr (Samaranch), the newly elected Vice President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission for Beijing 2022, highly praised the Games as flawless and wonderful. In an exclusive interview with Global Times special correspondent Chen Xiaohang (GT), Samaranch shared some memorable moments, the significance of holding such a grand event during the COVID-19 and the impression about Beijing as the world’s first city to hold dual Olympics.
GT: What impressed you the most as you witness the whole process of the Beijing Winter Olympics, for example, the organizing committee, volunteers, venues, high tech and athlete’s efforts?
Samaranch: What I can say [is] Every aspect has impressed me at this Winter Games, not only the venues, but also the anti-epidemic measures, organization and coordination as well as a kindly smile of the volunteers. Thanks for such highly tight coordination and cooperation as every part fits perfectly, athletes can play to their best and make new records, breaking the human limits. At such a difficult time, Beijing is still dedicated a wonderful grand event to the world, and let the world be amazed about it.
GT: How did you see peace, solidarity and progress underscored during the Games?
Samaranch: Win-win cooperation and joint progress are not only the responsibility of the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind, which are also part of Olympic values. Under the five rings, athletes from different places and with different colors of skin come together, and people of different races and different faiths embrace the same dream, as we can see since the competitions started, a lot of moments about friendship and sportsmanship among young athletes have been captured. For example, they exchanged gifts, or marched forward by holding hands. As a platform for multicultural exchanges, the friendship between people in the Winter Olympics transcends politics, country and race. It is the display of sportsmanship and the significance of the Olympics
GT: Now the COVID-19 epidemic is continuing to spread. How do you see the Beijing 2022 held as scheduled amid the epidemic? What is the significance of such a sports event for mankind in overcoming difficulties?
Samaranch: Amid the severe epidemic situation globally, China overcame difficulties and fulfilled its commitments and hosted the Winter Olympics as scheduled, demonstrating its stated responsibility as a major country. With ensuring the health and safety of those participating in the Games and contributing a simple, safe and splendid Olympic event to the world, it will also inject more confidence and strength into the global victory against the epidemic.
GT: Sports is one aspect of people-to-people exchanges and a link of communication, which helps to enhance mutual understanding and cognition between people. How do you see the role of the Beijing 2022 in promoting the Olympic spirit?
Samaranch: After more than 100 years of development, modern Olympic sports has become a cultural interaction platform that transcends country and space. The idea of holding an inclusive Olympics by Beijing aims to encourage people from all over the world to realize cultural interaction and cultural sharing on the Winter Olympics platform, and the international family to work “together for a shared future.” This is in line with Olympic values including unity, peace, progress and inclusiveness, and “together” revealed by the Olympic motto. Like what I always believe, no matter what your cultural background, religious belief and political system is, as long as you are in the Olympic family, we can become brothers and sisters.
GT: What will Beijing 2022 mean to China in the future as the country plans to hold large-scale international sports events? How would China improve itself on this aspect?
Samaranch: Successfully holding the Winter Olympics strongly underscored China’s first-class ability to host competitions, especially in terms of venues and organization. The Games have been affirming the capability of sustainable development since the beginning. In the Beijing competition zone, the only newly established venue for the ice sports is the Beijing National Speed Skating Oval, known as the Ice Ribbon. Besides, all the other venues for ice competition venues have been transformed from legacies from the Summer Olympics in 2008. This has laid a solid foundation for the wide application of multi-projects and multi-business operation after the competition and is also in line with the green competition concept of low carbon and environmental protection.
In face of the epidemic that could lead to emergent situations, the Olympic Committee has fully prepared with different plans, by ensuring the safety of all the athletes and staff members, they provided convenient, fast, accurate and meticulous services.
Undoubtedly, I have full confidence in China to hold any other large-scale international sports events.
GT: Beijing is the first city in the world to host both the Winter and Summer Olympics. In your opinion, what changes have taken place in China over the past 14 years? Could you name some examples?
Samaranch: I have to say China today is completely different from when I first came here. I am very amazed by the great changes and the rapid speed of its development. Take this Winter Olympics as an example, I went to the current Yanqing competition zone many years ago, at that time, it was barely nothing. After China successfully won the bid for holding the Games, although the natural conditions there in Yanqing were complex, Chinese people have still built world-class high-level competition venues on time and in quantity while paying attention to ecological protection. They achieved the goal of realizing the harmonious integration of sports facilities and the natural landscape. Such amazing changes have been undergoing everyday in various places in China.
So even though I come to China so often, every time the trip gives me new experiences.
GT: The Samaranch family is old friend of Chinese people, also the important witness of Beijing as the city has held dual Olympics. The Samaranch Foundation as a bridge and link of the friendship between the Samaranch family and the Chinese people, what role would it, in addition to yourself, play in the future?
Samaranch: The foundation aims not only to continue the deep friendship between my father and China, but also to promote the development of China’s sports culture and broadcast the Olympic ideal while promoting the international sports and cultural exchanges. Since its establishment in 2012, we have come up with a number of projects with Chinese institutions and enterprises such as the Olympic Expo, Free Football For All and so on, through a number of activities, we attract quality sports resources, and help promote sports development among Chinese young people. In the future, we’ll continue expanding sports events and let more Chinese people understand the Olympic culture and love sports. When the epidemic ends and people get back to their normal lives, I’ll, like I did in the past, travel to different places in China to assume our duties with my Chinese team.