Updated: Feb 8
After months of preparation amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical turmoil with the West, the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics kicked off festivities on Friday, 4 February, with an opening ceremony that put tech front and centre.
The event, however, was but a taste of China’s grand plans for the games – a platform to showcase its most cutting-edge tech innovations to the world. From stir-frying robots to environmentally-friendly sporting venues, here are some noteworthy tech on display at the games.
The opening ceremony set the tone for how Beijing was to use tech as one of the main attractions for the celebration. Directed by Zhang Yimou, who reprised his 2008 Beijing Summer Games role, the event saw the use of over 11,600 square metres of high-definition LED screen designed to look like an ice floor. This stage setup was incorporated in the dance performances and the raising of the Chinese flag.
But the highlight of the ceremony came right before the traditional parade of athletes when a three-dimensional cube resembling an ice block seemingly "melted" to reveal the Olympic rings.
China is using the event to show off its vast digital payment network to the international community. Instead of having Olympic guests and athletes carry banknotes, they were encouraged to download a digital yuan mobile app. This is a pilot project of China's central bank that's now being rolled out in major cities across the country. The app, as of last November, already has over 140 million registered citizens.
Robot Food Makers and Servers
Attendees of the event are experiencing what it's like to have their food prepared by robots. From ordering to serving, almost the entire dining process is automated. Guests first order using their mobile devices and the robots will then prepare their order. Once it's ready, a track system installed on the roof of the venue picks it up and serves it directly on guests' tables, which are surrounded by plexiglass barriers.
Alternatively, guests can pick up their orders themselves at designated stations. Some of the things the robots can do include stir-frying noodles, cooking pasta, wrapping burgers and mixing alcoholic beverages, among others. By employing robots, human-to-human contact can be minimised, thereby reducing the risk of spreading COVID-19.
Health Tracking Devices
There are also robots that give warnings to attendees who aren't wearing masks. These machines help enforce the strict COVID-19 regulations imposed on the Beijing Winter Olympics bubble.
Outside of robots, the athletes' rooms are fitted with smart beds that are capable of tracking specific health metrics, including breathing and heart rate. The beds are equipped with sensors that can create a health report for coaches to review. They also feature a memory mattress and a host of adjustment options for extra comfort.
Part of Beijing's promise in hosting this year's Winter Olympics is to have a green and climate-friendly event. And it's doing just that by using carbon dioxide from industrial waste to cool the ice rinks in its four sporting venues rather than the traditional hydrofluorocarbons, which can damage the ozone layer. The new cooling method is also said to be more energy efficient in making ice, using 20-30% less electricity than other methods.
Even the venues are reportedly running on renewable energy, specifically wind and solar energy imported from grids in the Zhangbei area. The vehicles used to transport attendees are also powered by hydrogen fuel cells, which are clean sources of electricity. As many as 80 vehicles and 700 buses are running on this energy source.
The entire venue is also covered by a 5G connection, with free access to social media sites and platforms that are blocked in China, such as Facebook and YouTube. The only catch is that the Chinese government may still be surveilling the attendees' online activity.
China is using the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics to flex its technological muscle at the world stage as geopolitical tensions with the U.S. continue to heat up.
The event has employed robots to prepare and serve attendees food, minimising human-to-human contact, which in turn reduces risk of COVID-19 transmission.
Beijing strives to host a climate-friendly event, using green alternative methods to maintain ice rinks and supply venues with power.