2022 Winter Olympics: Competition and Controversy

Madelena Lapinski, Staff Writer

The month-long, extravagant yet controversial sports event the world anticipates every two years: the Olympics. The 2022 winter Olympics in Beijing featured many wipeouts, unfinished races and outstanding victories of which the differences between these outcomes is determined by only a few hundredths of a second. The pressure was on for these international competitors, both physically and environmentally. 

The USA won its first gold medal on Feb. 9 when Lindsey Jabobellis, 36, sped through women’s snowboard cross. The next day, Nathan Chen won gold in Men’s Free Skate and Chloe Kim championed the Women’s Snowboarding halfpipe. By the conclusion of the games, The USA team won five other gold medals, 10 silver medals, and seven bronze medals.

Unfortunately to avid fans dismay, Shaun White will leave his last Olympic games without gold, having fallen on his last pass of the Men’s Snowboarding Halfpipe. The accuracy of the scores, however, are being put into question considering the conditions in which the athletes are competing that are making them prone to injury. 

The 2022 Olympic games are the first to be 100 percent supported by artificial snow. To compensate for the absence of snowfall in Beijing, there are 400 snow generators consistently in operation that are estimated to have consumed almost 50 million gallons of water by the end of the games. Not only do these machines, provided by TechnoAlpin, threaten China’s water supply and biodiversity– which they already struggle with due to climate change and depletion of underground reservoirs– but the artificial snow puts the athletes at a higher risk of injury. 

Although necessary if the games are being held in Beijing, the hard, icy ‘snow’ is significantly more dangerous than natural snow.  

In an article published by The Science Times, Tiffany Winfrey said,  “Falling on synthetic snow is like landing on concrete because it lacks the inherent composition of snow to keep its shape and avoid melting quickly.” 

Luckily, the athletes have a stunning view of giant smokestacks to admire as they fall down icy artificial slopes. Behind the Shougang Big Air venue lies a peculiar, dormant iron and steel production mill that has been repurposed since it’s shut down in 2010. The concrete frames of the disconcerting towers, which are plastered with Olympic games logo, have raised concern from athletes and fans. However, the once rampant mill has been urbanized and industrialized, so it is not threatening or disruptive to the athletes or venue staff besides creating a rather unappealing background. 

Despite the controversy, viewers all over the world never fail to tune into the captivating Olympic games. Through rain or shine, real or fake snow, steel mills or not, there will always be more outstanding athletes to watch every four years at the Winter Olympics.