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Calgarians mark opening of 2022 Beijing Games with celebration, protest

Click to play video: 'Calgarians cheer on Team Canada as the Beijing Winter Olympics begin' Calgarians cheer on Team Canada as the Beijing Winter Olympics begin
WATCH ABOVE: Calgarians are preparing for some late night cheering as Olympic athletes go for gold. As Tracy Nagai reports, while viewing parties and events are set to take place across the city, the 2022 Games are not without controversy. – Feb 4, 2022

With the 2022 Beijing Olympics underway, Calgarians are marking the occasion in the former Winter Olympics host city.

And for the mother of one novice Olympian, it’s an especially exciting time.

“It’s her first Olympics,” said Tracy McKay, mother of ski jumper Alexandria Loutitt. “She just turned 18 a few weeks ago.

Read more: Beijing Olympics: Opening ceremony kicks off 2022 Winter Games

“It was kind of a surprise for us that she was going to make this Olympics, so we’re all super excited.”

But the 15 time zone difference makes watching the competition a sleep-deprived affair.

Tracy McKay, mother of novice Olympic ski jumper Alexandria Loutitt, is pictured on Feb. 4, 2022 in Calgary. Global News

“I think I’ll nap until then and then get up for 11 p.m. to watch the men’s qualifying and then the ladies,” McKay said.

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“With COVID(-19), we’re not having a huge party like we would like to have. And, of course, it’s in the middle of the night, so not everybody is willing to get up at 2:45 a.m. like we are to watch live.”

Click to play video: 'Festivities and concern as 2022 Beijing Winter Games kick off' Festivities and concern as 2022 Beijing Winter Games kick off
Festivities and concern as 2022 Beijing Winter Games kick off – Feb 4, 2022

Loutitt took to ski jumping for the first time as a nine-year-old at Winsport.

“I thought, ‘This is going to last five minutes,” McKay recalled. “‘She won’t carry her skis from the parking lot at the ski hill to the chairlift. There’s no way she’s going to walk up and down this hill and be a ski jumper.’

“She was hooked from the beginning though. The bigger the jump, the more she loved it. And she’s had the Olympic rings taped on her bedroom door since she was 10.”

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Read more: The Beijing Winter Olympics are about to begin. Here’s what to expect

Dale Oviatt said WinSport and Canada Olympic Park have a special connection with many of the athletes wearing Canada’s red and white.

“The road to Beijing runs right through our campus and through our Canmore campus — and of course the Olympic Oval — with 66 per cent of them having trained or competed at these facilities,” Oviatt said. “It’s really a reason for excitement.”

Winsport is marking the occasion by rolling out the bobsleigh of the 1988 Jamaican team and hosting days themed to the 1988 Calgary Olympics.

But for other Calgarians, the Beijing Games are reason for concern.

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On the first day of the Games, Calgary City Hall saw a demonstration that included members of the Tibetan Association of Alberta.

“(The Chinese government is) hiding the illegal occupation of Tibet, (the Uyghur genocide) and human rights abuses in Hong Kong. So we came here to tell the world the real face of China,” association member Lobsang Thinley said.

Read more: Beijing Olympics should not distract from China’s human rights controversies: experts

“The Olympics represent freedom, friendship — China doesn’t really hold those things and we (Tibetans) have been suffering.”

Thinley pointed to the 70 years of Chinese rule over the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Protesters on the steps of Calgary city hall try to bring attention to China’s human rights record, pictured on Feb. 4, 2021. Global News
Protesters on the steps of Calgary city hall try to bring attention to China’s human rights record, pictured on Feb. 4, 2021. Global News

He said he’s cheering on Team Canada. But the privilege to speak out in this country is one his fellow Tibetans, Uyghur and other Chinese people are unable to enjoy.

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“We have a responsibility to use our freedom and privilege to speak for those who are suffering under the Chinese regime.”

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