OLYMPICS

2008, 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing see many differences

Feb 20, 2022, 11:05 PM | Updated: Feb 14, 2023, 12:23 pm

BEIJINGThe 2022 Beijing Olympics will go down as the most restricted Games in history.

COVID changed everything.  

KSL’s Alex Cabrero was one of the few NBC affiliate reporters who traveled to China. He was also there for KSL, reporting on the 2008 Summer Olympics, and says the lasting legacy of 2022 will be very different.

In the two and a half weeks of these Winter Games, Beijing Olympic Park near the Bird’s Nest was eerily empty. There was some movement, but much of it — just the volunteers, looking for anything to do.  

The venues stood proud, so did the security officers. But, for a city of 28,000,000 people, hosting the world’s biggest sporting event, it just didn’t feel like an Olympics.  

Beijing was alive and full of energy in 2008 when China hosted its first Olympics.

One of Alex’s best memories was going to a shopping mall and seeing the Chinese watch a large TV when Team China played against the USA in basketball.

There was so much pride.  

The night market was alive — people from around the world, trying new foods, excited to learn what China is all about.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this before,” a woman said laughing.

The atmosphere was festive throughout the city. Night and day, people were out having a great time.  

Alex did stories for KSL at the Forbidden City, the Beijing Zoo — where China’s most popular animal was on display.

“I think everybody is here for the giant panda,” Alex said.

He also visited the Ming Tombs, and of course, the Great Wall of China, which is one of the World’s biggest attractions.  

“This section of the Great Wall is one of the toughest and also one of the most popular,” Alex said.

The mystique of China was one anybody who was there will never forget. Same for meeting some of the locals, who were so excited to host the World, and to make visitors feel welcome.

That feeling wasn’t the same now in 2022.  

That warmth from 14 years ago was replaced by an almost cold feeling, and not just because these are the Winter Games.  

Of course, these tight COVID restrictions shouldn’t reflect on the success of our Utah athletes — Nathan Chen, Erin Jackson, Alex Hall, who won Gold; and many others bringing medals back home to Utah.

But, even they will say, these Games were different.

And as we move forward to Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, maybe even Salt Lake City, for future Olympics, hopefully things will feel normal again.

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2008, 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing see many differences