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MEP Tiziana Beghin on the Beijing Winter Olympics

Federico Grandesso interviews Italian MEP Tiziana Beghin (pictured).

How do you avaluate the results in the organization of the Beijing Olympics during this pandemic?

The Beijing Winter Olympics was the first large-scale event that did not suffer postponement, unlike Euro 2020 and Tokyo 2020, which originally were due to take place in an even more dramatic coronavirus outbreak. In general, and from a purely operational point of view, the organization seemed good to me. Nonetheless, some issues were encountered, such as the banality of the alpine ski slopes tracks, as the athletes said, or the case of the Russian skater Kamila Valieva. It has to be said that the responsibility falls on the IOC and not on the hosting country. We regret that a competition of this calibre did not benefit from an adequate public framework, but I am afraid that reduced capacity was the sole choice because of the pandemic.

From here in Italy, how do you think, from what you heard, the COVID security protocol was managed?

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Out of about 5,300 athletes and managers, 435 positive cases were recorded, especially in the very first days. On February 16 zero cases of COVID-19 were finally reported within the event for the first time: this means that the anti-covid measures were effective. However, some athletes complained about the extreme conditions they faced while in isolation and of an excess of zeal that did not allow everyone to fully enjoy the Olympic village, even after testing negative. Given the complicated circumstances, the impression is that the situation has been handled well.

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How can Italy and China co-operate in the organization of the next Olympics in Milano and Cortina?

Co-operation is extremely important in every field, even in the Olympic one. The exchange of good practices is fundamental in order to maintain a very high level, considering the athletes, the fans and all the satellite activities that derive from such event. It is possible to bring added value in both directions and therefore maximum availability is desirable, because you never stop learning. The hope is that rigid protocols will no longer be required to contain the spread of coronavirus in Milan-Cortina 2026.

Do you think that an event like the Olympics can still create interest in winter sports in Italy and China?

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Despite the not particularly convenient time for Europeans, the Beijing 2022 Olympics recorded a high increase of audience and interaction data, compared to Pyeongchang 2018. The Olympics always generates great enthusiasm and interest, even more so if Italy wins a medal. The most striking example is by the gold medal won by Stefania Costantini and Amos Mosaner in mixed doubles curling: their victory will help popularize curling in Italy, where there are less than 500 practitioners as for now. The same happened in China, where the organization of the event has led to a large increase of practitioners in recent years and extraordinary third place in the final medal table.

How do you evaluate the performance of the Italian team?

There were some polemics. It was clear that it would have been difficult to repeat the exploit of the Tokyo Summer Olympics, but the Italian team still performed very well, winning 17 medals in total. Arianna Fontana’s gold and two silver medals clearly stand out: with 11 Olympic medals, she has become the most successful Italian athlete ever at the Winter Olympics. Sofia Goggia’s silver in downhill after a flash recovery from a bad injury and the aforementioned gold won in mixed doubles curling by Stefania Costantini and Amos Mosaner deserve a special mention as well. As for the controversies between some athletes and their federation of reference, I do not have the elements to be able to give an evaluation.

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