Deputy email editor
Hi Olympic fans!
A weekend of historic victories, a Bing Dwen Dwen plushie shortage, and an evolving doping scandal has brought us through the halfway point of the Beijing Olympics. We’re looking forward to some ice dancing and aerial skiing—while these athlete couples anticipate Valentine’s Day dates at KFC and salons in the Games’ bubble.
Here’s what you need to know
- ROC figure skater Kamila Valieva had a hearing on her suspension. A decision on her future participation is expected Monday.
- Erin Jackson from the US became the first Black woman to win an individual gold in speed skating at the Winter Olympics. Teammate Brittany Bowe’s generosity paid off.
- Ironically, the first Winter Games to rely entirely on fake snow, saw real snow disrupt skiing training and events on Sunday.
- The women’s ice hockey semifinal games are set with Canada taking on Switzerland and the US up against Finland. The women’s gold has only ever been won by Canada or the US since it was first awarded in 1998.
- Medal events on Monday’s schedule include monobob, ice dancing, women’s freestyle aerial skiing, men’s team ski jumping.
A political bubble
Instead, the committee chose to call it “a general call for peace.” If you’ll remember, Beijing’s opening ceremonies were all about imagining no countries—all of us together in one snowflake. But the truth is, the Olympics have always been a political battleground. After all, if you really wanted an event that symbolized complete global togetherness and is devoid of any partisanship, a series of cutthroat competitions that pit country against country is probably not the way to go about it.
Back in the ROC
Kamila Valieva, the 15-year-old Russian skater who astonished the world by becoming the first woman to land a quadruple axel at the Olympics, is now at the center of a doping scandal. Of course, Russia is currently serving out its Olympic sentence for previous doping incidents—Valieva and every other Russian athlete at the Games competes as part of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC). But by and large, the no-flag punishment doesn’t amount to much, as Russian president Vladimir Putin waves down at the ROC contingent at the Opening Ceremonies.
Here’s a timeline of the rather confusing turn of events—Valieva’s test was performed long before the Olympics even began—thus far:
- Dec. 25, 2021: Valieva’s sample collected by the Russian Anti-Doping Agency (RUSADA) during the 2022 Russian Figure Skating Championships in Saint Petersburg
- Feb. 7, 2022: Team skating event at the Beijing Olympics
- Feb. 8, 2022: The World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited lab in Stockholm reported that the sample from December contained trimetazidine. She is provisionally suspended by RUSADA with immediate effect, and won’t be able to compete in any further events in Beijing
- Feb. 9, 2022: Valieva challenges the imposition of the provisional suspension before the RUSADA Disciplinary Anti-Doping Committee and a hearing takes place. By evening, RUSADA lifts the athlete’s provisional suspension
- Feb. 10, 2022: “She is not suspended,” Russian figure skating federation spokeswoman Olga Ermolina says, offering no further detail
- Feb. 11, 2022: ITA confirms the chronology of events. The IOC says it will make a decision before Valieva’s next scheduled skating event on Feb. 15.
- Feb. 13, 2022: A hearing is held to determine if Valieva can continue skating at the Games.
China’s charm offensive
Just as the Games began, Russia announced a strengthening of ties with China, who had its own Olympic doping scandal in 2014. This Olympics has faced diplomatic boycotts from nearly a dozen countries including the US over China’s alleged human rights abuses. But China so far has managed to portray the Games in a positive light at home.
Beijing’s most effective tool so far is Eileen Gu, an 18-year-old US-born free skier, who crashed the Chinese internet last Tuesday when she won her first gold medal for China, prompting Chinese media and citizens to celebrate both her victory and the country’s win in Gu electing to play for China instead of the US. Gu has seemingly played along with Chinese propaganda, telling reporters that she was glad to see tennis player Peng Shuai “happy and healthy and out here doing her thing again,” after Peng, who accused (and later denied) a former Chinese leader of sexual assault, attended Tuesday’s competition. Gu also defended China’s internet freedom, posting on Instagram that “anyone can download a vpn is free on the App Store,” a claim quickly refuted by tech watchers who point out China has punished ordinary people for using the tool.
Besides Gu, the Games’ mascot Bing Dwen Dwen has been used to showcase the lovely, more cuddly side of China, continuing its long history of “panda diplomacy.” It’s worked—state media has pushed Bing Dwen Dwen from the start, leading to a buying frenzy of toy versions. (However, the panda lost some face when it began to talk.)
❄️ We’ll be back in a couple days. Want to get a fellow Olympic fan in on the action? Here’s where they need to go.
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