Top Swiss snowboarders and the Laax Open event director said they had high expectations for the Beijing Winter Olympics taking place in less than three weeks, as they opposed the politicization of sports and pinned their hopes on more and more Chinese hitting the slopes in the future.
NEXT STOP IN BEIJING
Jan Scherrer, a two-time Olympian who represented Switzerland at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi and the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, and Jonas Boesiger, who also competed in the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, will both participate in the Winter Games in Beijing next month and said they were now eagerly looking forward to the event.
"I'm going to expect a nice course and a nice, bigger, good competition and just overall awesome experience, I'm really looking forward to," he told Xinhua. "It's going to be a great event. I can't wait to go there."
Asked about his expectations for the trip to Beijing, Scherrer, who finished second on the halfpipe in last week's Laax Open, said he believes that the Beijing games is going to be very well-organized.
"I'm sure the event is going to be great. I'm very excited for the half-pipe event. I've been working for this event for more than a year now. I can't wait until it finally starts," he said during a recent interview with Xinhua.
Donald Nader, event director of the Laax Open, told Xinhua that Beijing 2022 is an opportunity to boost solidarity, unity and resilience of humankind in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
"Solidarity is a very important word because COVID is not only about protecting yourself, but also about protecting other people as well. It is an aim or a goal for society. And for us, it is a good opportunity to show again that you don't only care about yourself, but you also care about your community."
Taking place from Jan. 11 to 15 this year, the Laax Open is one of the most important snowboarding events each year and includes competitions in slopestyle and halfpipe for women and men.
A SAFE OLYMPICS
For the safety of Olympic-related personnel, a special "closed-loop" system will be implemented during the Beijing Olympics. It allows fully vaccinated Olympic-related personnel to enter China without undergoing a compulsory 21-day quarantine.
Commenting on the COVID policies in Beijing, Boesiger said: "For sure it's going to be a little bit inconvenient, but I think it's necessary to keep the Games safe. And I think as an athlete, I feel safe with all the precautions and I think it's going to work out. With all the measures, it should be a pretty safe event."
Scherrer agreed with Boesier, saying that as long as the Olympics happen in Beijing, he thought it will be better if the Covid rules are very strict, "We all know that it's going to be a special year and I think we should just accept it".
Expressing his support for the Covid-19 policies in Beijing, Nader told Xinhua that whoever defines the Covid policy is driven by the idea to keep people safe and he agreed with that.
"We should try to do everything as an organizer to keep people safe, the athletes, the media, the spectators, everybody. So I think they're on a good path with their restrictions. It's only for a short period and it enables a much bigger, nicer event and has only few restrictions which I think are bearable," he said.
CHINA GETS ON BOARD
Nader also said he was hoping to attract more Chinese riders to glide down Switzerland's slopes in the future.
It comes as over 346 million Chinese people have participated in winter sports activities since Beijing's successful bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics in 2015, according to statistics released by China's National Bureau of Statistics recently.
Winter sports appear to be more popular among Chinese youths, as 82 million participants are aged between 18 and 30, accounting for 37.3 percent of the total population.
"300 million Chinese people who want to get into snowboarding and skiing, that's an amazing number for us, our country has 8.5 million people only. So that's an incredible number to imagine for us," Nader explained.
As Boesiger said that he is looking forward to have as many people in snow and enjoy this beautiful thing with them, Scherrer meanwhile said he expected more Chinese riders compete in global competitions:
"I'm sure in the future there are going to be more events, there are going to be better athletes as well in snowboarding from China. If you look at all the athletes now in China and there are more and more and they get better and better, it's very interesting to watch."
NO POLITICIZATION OF SPORT
The two Swiss top athletes as well as Nader all stressed that they refute calls by some political leaders for a "diplomatic boycott" of the Beijing Winter Olympics and they are against the politicization of sporting events.
"As athletes we should not necessarily be associated with these problems. I just want to go there and have a great performance of mine and let the politicians do their moves," said Scherrer.
"The sportsman, the snowboarder, male or female, the freeskier, they will perform their sports in the best way possible. Frankly speaking, the athletes are not so much into politics. They will blend that out, so they can concentrate on other things," Nader told Xinhua.
"I've been doing snow events for over 20 years now, and something which I find very important is that we respect and live up to the riders' interests. The sport is about the riders and their progression," he stressed.
He told Xinhua that his biggest worry is that some friends who are entering the contest will get injured, but other than that, he does not have any worries for China and the upcoming Winter Olympic Games.
Being asked about his expectation for the Beijing Winter Olympics, Nader said that he expects the level of doing sports to go another step up.
"In general, not only the snowboard but also in other sports, respect the level of the riding, respect the attitude of the sport and the spirit of the sport and try to accommodate them best possible, so they can perform their sport on the highest level," he concluded.