Day 1 of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics

By Jack Bantock, Ben Church, John Sinnott, Fernando Alfonso and Adrienne Vogt

Updated 0012 GMT (0812 HKT) February 6, 2022
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1:20 a.m. ET, February 5, 2022

Opening ceremony featured fireworks shaped like a Chinese tree whose name means to "welcome" guests

From CNN's Yong Xiong

Fireworks illuminate the sky during the Opening Ceremony on February 04.
Fireworks illuminate the sky during the Opening Ceremony on February 04. (Lu Ye/Pool/Getty Images)

The opening ceremony on Friday night featured a spectacular pyrotechnic show, which included fireworks that burst in the shape of Olympic rings. A stand out of the show was when fireworks took the form of type of tree from China's Huangshan mountain range named the "welcome guests pine."

"Using traditional fireworks to create (the pine tree) in the sky needs some creativity, but it's actually not easy to use firework to create the 'pine needles,'" said Cai Guoqiang, the director of firework of the opening ceremony, in an interview with state-run news outlet Xinhua.
"Because the fireworks burst radially after they are set off, and you need to light up the fireworks when they are still ascending, so they look like the “pine needles” growing in the sky."
Welcome Guests Pine in Huangshan Mountine. 
Welcome Guests Pine in Huangshan Mountine.  (Getty Images)

The fireworks burst into tall, vertical streaks of light forming the "tree trunk," while smaller, scattered fireworks made up the leaves and branches stretching out from the top. The entire tree display required a set of 1,500 fireworks, according to the organizing team.

12:49 a.m. ET, February 5, 2022

45 new Covid-19 cases identified among Olympics personnel in Beijing

From CNN’s Hannah Ritchie in Sydney

The Beijing Olympics Committee identified 45 new Covid-19 cases among Olympic athletes and personnel as of Friday, it said in a statement.

Of the 45 cases, 26 were found among new arrivals at the airport, and 19 involved people already inside the “closed loop” system that separates Olympic staff and athletes from the Beijing public.

Twenty-five of the cases involved athletes or team officials, five of whom were already inside the closed loop.

Since the closed loop system began on January 23, 353 Olympics-related personnel and stakeholders have tested positive. Of those cases, 136 have involved athletes or team officials.

In the same time period, officials have administered more than 741,800 Covid tests -- a daily requirement for anybody in the loop.

12:23 a.m. ET, February 5, 2022

US snowboarder Jamie Anderson and New Zealand sensation Zoi Synnott to vie for the gold

Anderson in action during qualification on Saturday, February 5.
Anderson in action during qualification on Saturday, February 5. (Maxim Shipenkov/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

New Zealand snowboarder Zoi Sadowski Synnott is proving to be a fierce competitor in Beijing.

Synnott, 20, earned the highest score at today's qualifying event for the women's slopestyle category, with a total score of 86.75.

Japan's Murase Kokomo and Finland's Enni Rukajarvi won second and third place respectively.

American Jamie Anderson, the snowboarder to beat at this year's Winter Olympics, qualified in fifth place with a score of 74.35.

Anderson had won gold at both the 2014 Sochi and 2018 PyeongChang Games, and is now gunning for a third straight gold medal in Beijing.

But Synnott may be her biggest challenge; Synnott has already defeated Anderson twice at the 2022 X Games, in the big air and slopestyle categories.

They will face off again at the final competition tomorrow, which begins at 9:30 a.m. local time (8:30 p.m. ET).

11:59 p.m. ET, February 4, 2022

Putin and Xi put on show of unity at the Winter Games, calling on NATO to halt expansion

From CNN's Beijing Bureau and Anna Chernova

(Alexei Druzhinin/Russian Presidential Press/TASS/Reuters)
(Alexei Druzhinin/Russian Presidential Press/TASS/Reuters)

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping issued a call for NATO to halt further expansion during a meeting on the sidelines of the Beijing Olympics on Friday.

Powerful partners: The two leaders' summit, held on the day of the Opening Ceremony for the Winter Olympics in China's capital, marked a further step in what has become an increasingly close partnership between Beijing and Moscow, as relations with the West deteriorate for both.

Friday's summit was the first in-person meeting between Xi and Putin in more than two years, adding to its significance.

Tensions on the Ukraine border: The massing of Russian troops near the border with Ukraine has fueled fears of an imminent invasion and prompted warnings from NATO and Western powers that any Russian aggression would result in serious consequences.

A readout from the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said the two leaders "had an in-depth and thorough exchange of views on China-Russia relations and a series of major issues concerning international strategic security and stability."

China has already shown sympathy with Moscow's message to NATO -- which calls for security guarantees to limit the organization's footprint along Russia's border.

Putin at the Games: Putin, who was pictured at the Opening Ceremony, is among a small group of world leaders to attend the Games, with many Western governments, including the United States, Britain and Australia, having declared a diplomatic boycott over China's human rights record. Other leaders have turned down invitations citing Beijing's stringent Covid-19 controls.

Read more here.

12:02 a.m. ET, February 5, 2022

Beijing reported a single Covid-19 case on Friday

From CNN's Beijing Bureau

A worker, wearing a protective suit, cleans her hands after administrating a Covid-19 test inside the Olympics bubble on February 5.
A worker, wearing a protective suit, cleans her hands after administrating a Covid-19 test inside the Olympics bubble on February 5. (Natacha Pisarenko/AP)

Beijing reported one locally transmitted symptomatic case of Covid-19 on Friday, its municipal government said.

That brings the total number of cases to 117 since the city detected its first Omicron infection on January 15, according to a CNN tally.

The patient worked in a refrigerated warehouse in the Fengtai district, one of the sites of Beijing’s Delta cluster from January, health officials added.

China reported nine locally transmitted symptomatic cases on Friday, including six in southern Guangdong province, two in the northern city of Tianjin and one in Beijing. China counts asymptomatic cases separately.

11:01 p.m. ET, February 4, 2022

What is ski jumping or speed skating? A guide to the medal events happening today

A number of competitions are happening today, from alpine skiing to curling. While many are qualifying competitions, athletes will be picking up medals in a handful of events.

Here's a guide to the medal events to watch on Day 1:

  • Biathlon (mixed relay): The biathlon event is a combination of skiing and shooting, where competitors race along a ski trail and the distance is punctuated into shooting rounds. The sport can be traced back to Scandinavia, where people would hunt using skis and have rifles draped over their shoulders.
  • Cross country skiing (women's 7.5km and 7.5km skiathlon): Cross-country skiing is the oldest type of skiing and evolved as a form of travel between remote communities. Cross-country skiers either use the freestyle technique, where they ski side-to-side, or the classic technique, which involves striding forward.
  • Freestyle skiing (men's moguls): This sport features balletic techniques and acrobatic skills, where athletes ski in a motion that is similar to skating and perform technically challenging moves during their runs.
  • Short track speed skating (mixed team relay): One of three skating events at the Winter Olympics, short track speed skating requires tight turns, strategic positioning and high speeds. Athletes compete on an ice track and field without lanes, so they are prone to both crashes and injury.
  • Ski jumping (women's normal hill individual): In the parallel style of ski jumping, skiers lean forward and brace their arm backwards, close to their bodies, and point the tips of their skis in a V shape. Jumps are judged by the style and the distance covered.
  • Speed skating (women's 3,000m): Speed skating involves athletes racing alongside each other around an oval-shaped track, with each skater hoping to set the fastest time out of all the participants in the field.
3:38 a.m. ET, February 5, 2022

Opening Ceremony declared a success in China, despite international controversy

From CNN's Nectar Gan in Beijing

Dancers perform during the Opening Ceremony on February 4.
Dancers perform during the Opening Ceremony on February 4. (The Asahi Shimbun/Getty Images)

Despite the political controversy and diplomatic boycotts internationally, last night’s Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Winter Games was extremely well received in China.

Inside the National Stadium, the audience were clearly overwhelmed by the performance. The crowds applauded, cheered and roared, and waved flash lights on their phones and small Chinese and Olympic flags handed out by organizers, despite freezing temperatures.

Millions more watched a live broadcast of the ceremony at home. Chinese social media was flooded with positive comments. Posts marveled at the high-tech digital displays, including dazzling laser rays and a never-ending flurry of LED snowflakes, despite the show being simpler and more toned down than the lavish displays at the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Many praised the ceremony's director, filmmaker Zhang Yimou, for highlighting Chinese culture in the performance, including opening the ceremony with a countdown on the country’s lunar calendar.

“Director Zhang Yimou knows only too well the romance of the Chinese people!” said one trending hashtag on Weibo, which garnered more than 400 million views.

Zhang also seemed pleased with the show. At the end of the evening, he declared to a cheering crowd: "That was excellent! Our Winter Olympics opening ceremony was a big success!"

10:31 p.m. ET, February 4, 2022

Robot bartenders, daily tests and security checks: Life inside the Olympics closed loop

From CNN's Nectar Gan in Beijing

In a bid to keep the Games Covid-free -- and to prevent the virus from spreading into the wider population -- Chinese authorities have constructed a vast network of bubbles, known officially as the “closed loop,” that separates the Games from the host city.

The “closed loop” consists of a series of competition venues, training facilities, media centers, Olympic Villages and hotels. It covers three Olympics zones: Beijing, Yanqing and Zhangjiakou, stretching 180 kilometers (110 miles).

The stringent rules mean those on the inside face daily PCR tests, robots serving food, and no chance to explore Beijing's sights -- while those on the outside have no access to the Olympic events happening in their own city.

Technology has also cut down the number of person-to-person interaction inside the loop. At the media center, robots serve food at the cafeteria, while another robot mixes and serves cocktails.

But the system isn't perfect. Many of the robots still require human supervision; a fully masked staffer stood beside the bar, overseeing the robot bartender.

And the transport system within the loop can be cumbersome. Walking is rarely an option, and people are instead required to take dedicated buses or taxis. Staggered bus schedules mean people can face a long wait to get from one point to the other -- even if the destination is just a few blocks away.

9:36 p.m. ET, February 4, 2022

All the snow at Beijing 2022 is manmade -- and requires enough freshwater to feed 100 million people

From CNN's Derek Van Dam

(Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
(Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

It would be hard to hold a conversation over the deafening sound of the snow machines preparing the Olympic venues northwest of Beijing. They are loud and they are everywhere, blowing snow across what will be this month's most-watched slopes.

Snow sports in climate crisis: In an Olympic first, though not an achievement to boast about, climate variability has forced the Winter Games to be virtually 100% reliant on artificial snow -- part of a trend that is taking place across winter sports venues around the world.

As the planet warms and the weather becomes increasingly more erratic, natural snow is becoming less reliable for winter sports, which forces venues to lean more on artificial snow.

But it comes at a cost: human-made snow is incredibly resource-intensive, requiring massive amounts of energy and water to produce in a climate that's getting warmer and warmer.

About 49 million gallons of water will be needed to produce snow for The Games, according to the International Olympic Committee -- that's a day's worth of drinking water for nearly 100 million people.

Elite athletes also say the sports themselves become trickier and less safe when human-made snow is involved.

Read more here: