China‘s tough controls over the internet will be temporarily lifted for people attending the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, officials promised Wednesday.
The communist country restricts access to foreign websites including Google, Facebook and Twitter with a vast network of controls dubbed the Great Firewall of China. Under President Xi Jinping it has tightened its grip on broadcast, print and online media.
Content deemed politically sensitive, violent or morally “unhealthy” is regularly blocked.
But officials promised that visitors to the Olympics would have unfettered access to the web.
“We will fully open internet access for all internet clients at competition venues, living quarters, and other areas,” Zhang Jiandong, vice president of the Winter Olympics organising committee and a vice mayor of Beijing, told a press conference.
He gave no details of how this would be done.
“It’s guaranteed in the bid,” explained International Olympic Committee vice president Juan Antonio Samaranch, adding: “All the experience we have had with Beijing is that they deliver on their word.”
China sealed its place on the world stage as an emerging superpower with the 2008 summer Games, which were estimated to have cost the country around $40 billion.
Beijing’s willingness to spend big helped it win a bid last summer to host the 2022 winter Games, beating European cities that withdrew due to cost concerns.
The capital will be the only city in sporting history to host both summer and winter Olympics — despite not having a strong winter sports tradition of its own.
“Chinese teams only have limited knowledge of some sports, and the performance level is not very high,” admitted Yang Shuan, vice director ofChina‘s General Administration of Sport, adding that the country had hired over two dozen foreign coaches to bring athletes, local coaches and technical staff up to snuff.