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Latin America and Caribbean nations firmly support Beijing 2022 as safe and splendid Games

By SERGIO HELD in Cajica, Colombia | | Updated: 2022-01-29 03:12
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Latin American and Caribbean nations have expressed full support for the 2022 Winter Olympics, lauding China for hosting the event despite pandemic challenges, with some countries hoping that their athletes will be able to win medals in the Games that will open in Beijing on Feb 4.

Officials and experts in the region said the Winter Games offer an opportunity for the international community to set differences aside and stand together in the spirit of harmony, while celebrating healthy competition among sportspersons from around the world.

They noted that the Games this year will symbolize a break from all that the world had endured over the past two years in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

"The vast majority of the international community recognizes that the Olympic Games are an opportunity for all countries to come together in an environment of healthy competition and a time to highlight the things that unite us as humanity, including healthy competition among countries," said David Castrillon, research professor at the School of International Relations at Externado University of Colombia.

"The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean have emphatically and consistently declared their support for these (Beijing) Olympic Games, which are expected to be splendid and safe, even in a context of continuing pandemic," Castrillon told China Daily.

Latin American and Caribbean, or LAC, countries are sending a total of 41 athletes.

Colombia, despite being located in the tropics and lacking snowy and icy seasons, is sending three athletes.

Colombia's President Ivan Duque has stressed that the Games are very important and that they can help build peace in the world community.

"These Olympic Games are very important for the world. Sports are something that unites. Sports are something that allows us to build peace, to understand our differences, but also to compete in a friendly way, reach opportunities, and build opportunities for youngsters," Duque said in a recent interview with Chinese broadcaster CGTN.

"We consider that these games, in the midst of the pandemic, are also the demonstration that the world is looking ahead with enthusiasm and with a clear sentiment of recovery," added Duque.

Luis Diego Monsalve, Colombia's ambassador in Beijing, told the media in China recently that he is convinced that the 2022 Games will be well organized and exciting.

In Argentina, one of the few countries in South America with winter seasons and snow and ice, there are high hopes for some medals from the Games, and also for some positive outcomes from the China trip of President Alberto Fernandez, who will be attending the Olympics opening ceremony in Beijing.

"I celebrate and I'm grateful for the invitation to the Winter Games. I believe that they are, in terms of sport, very important for the world and for the development of the different winter sports disciplines. It will be a pleasure for me to be able to accompany them and to be present at the opening of the Games," Fernandez said in a recent statement.

Vicente Teruggi, sports coordinator at the Argentine-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, told China Daily that Argentina and China have a strategic relationship and that the Games will only strengthen that relationship.

"Undoubtedly, our countries have a strategic link, a deep link that goes beyond the commercial aspect," Teruggi said, speaking from Buenos Aires, Argentina's capital.

"I believe that in the coming years there will be a lot of work on different agendas, focusing on positive aspects of mutual knowledge, such as education, culture, sports, and gastronomy, which unite us as people."

Argentina's association of ski instructors and a Chinese company have a cooperation agreement in place since 2021 that enabled the Argentine instructors to work in China, while deepening cooperation between both countries.

"Argentina is sending six (athletes) to the Olympic Games. We hope they do very well, and we believe these will be remarkably interesting games," said Teruggi.

Tata Castro, a sports journalist based in Medellin, Colombia, said winter sports present challenges for Latin Americans "because our continent has a winter which is rainier and colder, than snowy and icy".

"All the Colombians who have had the opportunity to be in this type of games have been able to participate because they do not live in Colombia, and (because they) train in other countries," explained Castro.

Many of the Latin American athletes taking part in the Winter Olympics either have dual citizenship, or simply reside abroad. Their participation in the Games proves that there are no boundaries and no limits to taking part in this global event.

One of the Colombian athletes taking part in the Beijing event was born in Colombia but adopted by a French family and raised in France. An Ecuadorian athlete taking part in an alpine skiing sport was born and raised in the United States, while a Bolivian athlete, also taking part in the same category of sport, was born and raised in Austria.

"Cooperation and friendship levels between China and Latin America have been on the rise in recent years. China's economic potential, the opportunities it offers and the ties it has forged with Latin America, through global investment programs such as the Belt and Road Initiative or health assistance amid the pandemic, are extremely useful elements for Latin American governments," Cristian Inderkumer, director of research at the Civic Association for Argentina-China Cooperation, told China Daily.

"This international cooperation has reached all kinds of areas, including cultural and sports exchanges. Now it is time for the Winter Olympics," said Inderkumer, speaking from the city of Rosario in Argentina.

The Winter Games will end on Feb 20, followed by the Winter Paralympic Games between March 4 and March 13.

The writer is a freelance journalist for China Daily.

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