Great friendships, good memories strongest legacy of Beijing 2022

Lu Feiran
The Winter Olympics buried the political boycotts under waves of common emotions of hugs, tears, interactions and celebrations of achievement.
Lu Feiran
Great friendships, good memories strongest legacy of Beijing 2022

Xu Mengtao (left) celebrates her victory with a big hug from her American counterpart and friend Ashley Caldwell.

Beijing 2022 kicked off a fortnight ago under a mixed cloud of anticipation. However, thanks to modern technology, competition and daily life in the Winter Olympics bubble was an open book.

And what was shared by the athletes proved that the Olympic Games offers a stage for communication and friendship rather than political posturing. For the past two weeks, many hugs, encouragements, tears and comforts were witnessed during the most-watched Winter Olympics ever. The common emotions of people transcended winning and losing, the differences in nationalities and cultural backgrounds.

After four-time Olympian Xu Mengtao eventually gained her first gold in the women's aerial freestyle skiing, her American counterpart Ashley Caldwell rushed over and gave her a big hug.

"Taotao! Olympic champion! In your own country! I'm so proud of you!" her happy voice reverberated through the digital airwaves.

Such scenes could be witnessed almost every day. The hug between Japanese snowboarder Ayumu Hirano and his American counterpart Shaun White also went viral on the Internet. This is the last Olympic Games for 35-year-old White. A Japanese user tweeted: "It looks like a hug to pass on the message – 'From now on, it's your era; you're going to make history.'"

American mixed doubles curling duo Vicky Persinger and Chris Plys received more than a hug. After they defeated their Chinese counterparts Fan Suyuan and Ling Zhi, the Chinese duo gave them two Beijing 2022 pin sets.

"Honored to receive these beautiful #Beijing2022 pin sets in a wonderful display of sportsmanship by our Chinese counterparts this afternoon," the Americans tweeted.

Great friendships, good memories strongest legacy of Beijing 2022

American mixed doubles curling duo Vicky Persinger and Chris Plys display the pin sets received from their Chinese counterparts.

Communication and friendship was extended behind the scenes as well. The Olympic Village became a base in which athletes experienced and shared different cultures.

Four days after the Games' opening ceremony, White gave a room tour of the Olympic Village on TikTok at the request of his followers. He displayed a room with a kitchen that was basic but sleek, a king-sized bed with a humidifier on one side, a neat bathroom, a backlit closet and snacks stacked in the living room.

The room tour shocked many. Syd Robinson of US Internet media Buzzfeed commented that "quite frankly, his Olympic Village room is far nicer than my criminally overpriced apartment."

And then there was the food, of which Chinese people often feel proud. A buffet consisting of more than 600 types of dishes was provided around the clock in the food court of the Olympic Village. Chinese dumplings, buns and Peking Duck appeared from time to time on social networking sites.

Great friendships, good memories strongest legacy of Beijing 2022

A canteen staffer serves a Peking Duck set to athletes in the food court in the Olympic Village.

Peking Duck was probably the most popular food in the canteen.

"I remember there was a day when 80 ducks were consumed just for lunch," said Shen Qianfan, director-general of the village planning and operation department of the Games' organizing committee.

Also, traditional Chinese snacks that are less known overseas opened a new world for athletes. Dutch speed skater Jutta Leerdam, who won silver in the women's 1,000 meters, was fascinated by malatang, a street delicacy originally from southwest China's Sichuan and Chongqing that is popular across the country. Leerdam shared a video online of her order of the dish, which went viral.

She later posted in another video that she had received a drawing of her eating the dish from a volunteer.

"So sweet! This made my day!" the caption of the video said.

Great friendships, good memories strongest legacy of Beijing 2022

Japanese journalist Gido Tsujioka shows off his Bing Dwen Dwen pins and shirt on a CCTV talk show.

Meanwhile, the official mascot Bing Dwen Dwen and Shuey Rhon Rhon also won the heart of athletes, officials and journalists.

Gido Tsujioka, a Japanese journalist for Nippon TV, is perhaps the mascot's biggest fan. When he appeared on TV, his ID strings were full of Bing Dwen Dwen pins, gaining him many followers on SNS in both Japan and China.

"At first sight, the mascot with the panda image gives out a sense of comfort with its cuteness," Tsujioka said. "Now I'm worried that so many people in Japan have asked me to buy Bing Dwen Dwen for them. I bought some for my three children, but their friends and friends of friends want them, too."

The heartwarming stories and human gestures of friendship will long be remembered, by both athletes and viewers.

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