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2022 Winter Games to make tech, green leap

By SUN XIAOCHEN | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-11-19 07:23
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Guo Junzhi, an art teacher at a primary school in Handan, Hebei province, makes a Winter Olympics-themed paper-cutting work on Thursday. Guo has made a series of such works in her spare time over the past two years. CHENG XUEHU/FOR CHINA DAILY

From robots that monitor athletes' health to wearable thermometers and perfectly chilled ice rinks, the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics are setting a new benchmark for sustainable and intelligent Games.

As Olympic venues undergo testing, impressive high-tech and green innovations are giving a glimpse of what's in store for participants at next year's winter sports gala.

A key measure is implementation of innovative solutions at all venues to help contain COVID-19 in the lead-up to and during the Games, said the organizing committee.

"To handle all kinds of possible scenarios, we have put in place some advanced equipment for large-scale health monitoring, environment disinfection and instant responses," Yu Hong, director of the Beijing 2022 organizing committee's technology department, said at a news conference on Thursday.

"The trial use of those new devices and services during the test events has proved effective and efficient enough for us to guarantee the safety of all Games-related personnel as a top priority."

To reduce the number of operational staff and service volunteers, artificial intelligence robots have taken charge of disinfection, body temperature checks and environment monitoring against aerosol transmission of the novel coronavirus. Since early October, when international trial events for speedskating, figure skating, short-track speedskating and wheelchair curling started, the robots have been deployed at official hotels and sports venues.

Over 700 wearable thermometers were given to operational staff working at an ice hockey tournament at the Wukesong Arena in western Beijing. Each thermometer has a fingernail-sized chip that sticks to a user's skin to report any significant body temperature rises, allowing the medical and epidemic control team to immediately identify any risks and react accordingly.

Since February, the organizing committee, supported by property owners and the Ministry of Science and Technology, has used 133 new approaches and tech innovations in venue renovations, security, transportation, medical services and broadcasting. A further 228 approaches and innovations are to be tested and implemented in the buildup to the Games, which will open on Feb 4.

To honor its promise of hosting green and eco-friendly Games, Beijing 2022 has chosen to replace Freon with carbon dioxide as a cleaner and more efficient refrigerant at some venues. Carbon dioxide will be used as a refrigerant at four ice sports competition and training venues, including the newly built National Speed Skating Oval, to reduce energy consumption, waste discharge and carbon emissions.

The change to using carbon dioxide at the skating rink, which has a 12,000-square-meter surface, is expected to save 2 million kilowatt-hours of electricity annually compared with the old system, the organizers said.

Competitors have said the new system has helped maintain the consistency of the ice within a range of 0.5 C, making the rink easier to skate on.

"It's very modern and I really like the way it was painted in white and blue. The ice is nice to skate on," said Dutch Youth Olympic champion Isabel Grevelt, one of four skaters who clocked personal best results during last month's test event at the venue.

The construction of a lightweight roof above the National Speed Skating Oval, using a saddle-shaped cable-net structure, reduced the use of steel by about 3,000 metric tons, according to organizers.

To cater to the growing audience appetite for a more interactive Games experience, Beijing 2022 organizers and venue operators have tested new broadcasting technologies, such as 8K ultrahigh definition livestreaming and 360-degree instant replays, enabled by the 5G network, for large-scale implementation at the Games, said organizers.

"The use of new technologies will enhance the Games experiences for athletes and all other participants, but, more importantly, we hope those innovations can benefit the promotion of winter sports in China, urban development in the hosting areas and the relevant industries after the Games," said Wu Yuanbin, head of the Ministry of Science and Technology's bureau for social development.

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