The Olympic movement endures. Its Games unfurl every four years when not disrupted by awful circumstances like the pandemic that moved
the recent Tokyo Games to the summer of 2021. It presses on, season after season,despite a long list of troubles:
Bribery cases and drug scandals.
Athlete censorship and cost overruns.
Environmental damage and the displacement of local residents.
But Beijing 2022 sits at a whole other level of discord.
Many, including me, are asking should these Games even be happening?
Should a second straight Olympiad be held amid a pandemic that has killed more than five million people worldwide?
The Chinese attempt to beat back the virus will make the strict measures taken in Tokyo look like kindergarten play, in a country whose tilt
toward authoritarianism has gone unnoticed by the I.O.C.
Once again, few fans will be in the stands. NBC will broadcast the Games in the United States while keeping its event announcers home because
the network has deemed it unsafe for them to be in China.
Here we go with yet another Olympics where Russia stands as a specter. It was only eight years ago — the Sochi Winter Games of 2014 — when
the Russian military massed at the border of Crimea. Then, once Sochi ended, Russia annexed Crimea, defying the international community.
The worry now is that the same fate will befall Ukraine once these Games conclude.
In Sochi, the Russians undertook one of the most brazen doping scandals in sports history — a sophisticated campaign to replace dirty doping
samples with clean ones that involved more than 1,000 athletes and dozens of coaches and officials.
And yet Russian athletes have competed in every Olympics, winter and summer, since those 2014 games. Although they are not permitted to
march under their flag, they will be there in Beijing, the ones deemed “clean” by the I.O.C. Expect many of them to dominate.
Barring an unstoppable cascade of infection, what will save Beijing 2022 will be more athletic brilliance — on the ice and the mountains that,
in this case, are blanketed by an unusually heavy coating of artificial snow because it is in a dry region.
Mikaela Shiffrin, daring and dominant, aiming for as many as five more gold medals.
Nathan Chen, gliding across the ice and twisting through the air in figure skating.
Shaun White and Chloe Kim in the halfpipe.
Germany’s Eric Frenzel in the Nordic combined.
Canada, waging its ongoing battle with the United States for supremacy in women’s hockey.
There will, of course, be other stars, other memories formed. Expect an alluring stream of virtually unknown Olympians, athletes with back stories
for the ages, no chance at winning and indomitable pluck.
Expect grace notes; the kind of fair play that became a hallmark of the Tokyo Olympics.
Expect the same greatness, the same athletic grace — a marvel for us all — but always remember what is really going on.