When the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics begin next week, the Chinese capital will become the first city in history to host both the Summer and Winter Games.
Like most Olympics, not everything went smoothly for Beijing. If the pandemic hasn’t delayed games like it did for Tokyo 2020, spectators will again be limited. And there was political outrage about the host country. Many countries (including the UK and America) have announced diplomatic boycotts of the games in light of China’s human rights record.
It’s perhaps unsurprising that many of these games’ visual elements – from the torch to the panda mascot – are reminiscent of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, focusing on ongoing Olympic history. Venues built for the city’s 2008 Games will also be reused, although new destinations have been created: a speed skating oval and a snowboard stadium. The design also attempts to push things forward, embracing not only Chinese culture, but also the growing diversity of winter sports.
The Opening Ceremony of the 2022 Games will look familiar; it takes place at the “Bird’s Nest” stadium – designed by architects Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron – which hosted the 2008 Games. It is also directed by filmmaker Zhang Yimou who oversaw the 2008 ceremony. Not much is known about the exact details, but expect plenty of fireworks and dance, with a cinematic touch. The official motto of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is “Together for a shared future”.
The 2022 logo was designed by Chinese designer Lin Cunzhen (who also worked on the 2008 Olympics logo), following an open call for entries. It is inspired by the Chinese character for winter (冬) and also represents a skater above and a skier below. Its ribbons symbolize China’s mountainous landscape as well as Olympic venues, says the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The blue color scheme is meant to represent dreams and the “purity of ice and snow”, while the flag of China appears with the red and yellow of the emblem.
The Paralympics logo, by the same designer, is based on the Chinese character 飞 (meaning fly) and features the same color scheme.
The 24 pictograms of the Winter Olympics combine traditional Chinese graphics and the diversity of winter sports, explains the IOC. Freestyle skiing has been awarded six icons thanks to the range of equipment used. The designs are based on seal engraving – in each the sport is depicted with features characteristic of Chinese seals that date back centuries. “The strong contrast between the red background and the white lines also underlines the grace and dynamism of winter sports”, add the organizers. The pictograms were designed by a group of designers led by Lin Cunzhen.
Illustrator and designer Cao Xue created the 2022 mascot, an animated panda named Bing Dwen Dwen (Bing means ice cream in Chinese, while Dwen Dwen means sturdy). Bing Dwen Dwen is decked out in a full body shell – resembling an astronaut suit – which is a “tribute to embracing new technologies for a future of endless possibilities”, says the IOC.
The panda’s future potential is highlighted by the rainbow-colored halos that wrap around its face. Although the animal was chosen from nearly 6,000 submissions, it shouldn’t be too surprising that a panda was chosen – the giant panda is China’s national animal (and was also one of five 2008 Games mascots).
Cao Xue also designed the Paralympic mascot Sheuy Rhon Rhon, described as a “Chinese lantern child” by the IOC. The features of the mascot pay homage to Chinese traditions of paper cutting and ruyi (decorative objects). The character’s warm glow is meant to represent the “perseverance of para-athletes”, organizers say.
The halo panda and light lantern mascot can also be spotted on the three sets of official posters, designed by Chinese students and revealed during Beijing Design Week 2021. Particularly striking is the design by fine arts student Su Yun Zheng, which interlocks the Olympic rings with a snowflake motif. Together, the emblems represent a Chinese knot – a symbol of good luck.
The red and silver torch, designed by Li Jianye, nods to its Beijing Summer Olympics counterpart. “By using the same color scheme and sharing similar artistic elements with the 2008 torch, we aim to send auspicious greetings to the world as we did at the Summer Games,” Li said. the torch’s ribbon-like structure, itself a nod to the scroll-shaped cauldron of 2008, allows wearers to lock the two torches together. It also uses hydrogen which means it is emission free. Due to several Covid cases in China, the torch relay has been shortened to just three days.
The BBC Games coverage trailer – designed by BBC Creative and London-based animation studio BlinkInk – plays up the winter sports drama. From a block of ice emerges an athlete who alternates skating, slaloms and snowboards under the glare of flashing lights. Directed by Balázs Simon, the sequence uses 3D-printed ice sculptures and stop motion in an attempt to amp up the Olympic drama with the tagline: “Extreme by nature”.
“In a way, I wanted to find myself in a situation similar to that of the Olympians: in a foreign and unforgiving place that must be conquered,” explains Simon. “We wanted to depict them being born in ice and snow and eventually bursting.”
Unsurprisingly, most nations’ uniforms focus on keeping warm; China’s official ceremonial kit includes self-heating thermal underwear and non-slip boots. The GB team kit for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies was designed by Ben Sherman and is suitably warm and patriotic. Hopefully athletes will stay warm in a turtleneck sweater that features a deconstructed union jack.