The United Nations’ Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres has lauded the Olympic Games’ message of peace, unity and solidarity. Guterres met with International Olympic Committee (IOC) president, Thomas Bach, in Beijing, China, shortly after the official opening of the Winter Games.
The Beijing Winter Games is being held amid concerns over China’s human rights record and environmental issues related to the event. But Guterres defended the UN’s support of the Games. He says it was important for nations to come together as conflicts brew across the world.
“Of course, there is competition in the world, but that competition does not necessarily mean enmity. That competition needs to allow the world to come together and to face the enormous challenges of today. COVID, climate change, inequality, all things that require much more unity and solidarity in our world, and the message of these Olympic Games is that message,” says Guterres.
The IOC welcomed the UN’s continued support.
“Both the United Nations and the IOC are about peace and understanding and solidarity. And this has become once more very clear in this meeting where we also had the opportunity to discuss together further steps of cooperation so that we at the IOC can make an even strengthened contribution to peace and the realisation of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals,” says Thomas Bach, IOC President.
Meanwhile, Norwegian cross-country skier, Therese Johaug, won the first gold medal of the Beijing Games. She was a comfortable winner of the women’s 15-kilometre skiathlon in a time of 44 minutes and 13 seconds – 30 seconds clear of the pack. She has won 14 world titles, but has never bagged an individual Olympic gold.
“I have missed this and it was really tough conditions out there today, a lot of wind, it was cold, but the tracks, I love them. And I feel that the shape is good at the moment,” says Therese Johaug.
While the competitors were doing battle at venues in and around Beijing, Chinese residents soaked up the atmosphere at the national stadium after the Games’ official opening. Many were looking forward to the spectacle and hoped that China, as host nation, would win more gold medals than ever before.
Souvenirs of the Games also flew off the shelves at a flagship merchandise store in downtown Beijing. One of the mascots is a panda in a see-through ice body suit named, “Bing Dwen Dwen” or “Ice Child”.
Souvenirs were, however, sold out within hours and shoppers were told another batch would arrive next week. The Games will come to an end on the 20th of this month.