As Tuesday marks a special Lantern Festival, athletes, volunteers and many other support staff at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games celebrated the traditional Chinese festival with special snacks and festive activities including lantern riddles, lantern making and performances.
Lanterns of different styles and shapes have been used to decorate the Main Media Center and other Winter Olympic venues, creating a strong festive atmosphere. The food of the day - stuffed rice ball, or yuanxiao - were offered at various canteens within the closed loops.
Snowboarder Gu Ailing, after taking a silver medal in the women's freeski slopestyle event on Tuesday, expressed her wish of eating her favorite "black sesame stuffed rice ball" for the day and wished everyone a Happy Lantern Festival.
Many netizens had guessed what kind of rice ball the Olympic canteens would offer and whether foreign athletes and coaches would like the food amid reports on how foreign athletes fell in love with traditional Chinese food offered at the Winter Olympics. American athlete Julia Marino was "conquered by dumplings," eating more than 200 in her first week at the Olympic Village, media reported.
In addition to the Lantern Festival menu, the Global Times learned from volunteers inside the closed loop that various festival activities would be held, including lantern riddles, lantern making, paper cutting and festive performances like lion dance.
A volunteer at the Main Media Center told the Global Times on Tuesday that although she's not with her family, the diverse activities and festive atmosphere were delightful. "It's like Spring Festival 2.0, and it's a great chance to get together and make friends," the volunteer said, declining to be named.
The Beijing organizing committee also provided a tiger-themed handicraft to accredited reporters and athletes, "which is cute," Czech ice dancer Natalie Taschlerova told the Global Times. She also plans to try the rice ball for dinner.
Taschlerova shared her excitement on social media earlier after having received an Olympic gift bag containing the star mascot Bing Dwen Dwen and Chinese New Year couplets, and she said she loved dumplings and spring rolls in the Olympic canteen.
The festival is also celebrated outside the closed loop. The Paralympic mascot Shuey Rhon Rhon, a snow-covered red Chinese lantern, gained wide attention on the Lantern Festival following the mania created by its companion Bing Dwen Dwen.
The two Olympic mascots also made their debut when the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs held its routine press conference on Tuesday. A Global Times reporter saw them standing outside the Blue Hall where the press briefings are held. Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin sent festival greetings to reporters after introducing the pair.
At the gala on Tuesday night for the Lantern Festival, China's gold medalists Gu Ailing, Ren Ziwei, Wu Dajing, Fan Kexin and Qu Chunyu sent their festival greetings to the public.
The traditional Chinese festival is about the reunion of family and friends, and a Lantern Festival at the Winter Olympics highlights the union of a bigger family and the Olympic spirit of solidarity, Yan Jiarong, spokesperson for the Beijing organizing committee, said at Tuesday's press briefing.
The Lantern Festival coinciding the Winter Games again becomes a window for world athletes, coaches and support staff to experience and understand the profundity of the Chinese culture.
Experts pointed out the richness of Chinese culture is far beyond the food, handicraft and traditions displayed at the Olympic Villages. Spring Festival couplets, traditional Chinese medicine therapy, and Tai Chi stretches are just part of it.
More importantly, the Winter Olympics are a platform to show the world how the Chinese philosophy of harmony and communications can bridge the world and share a similar core with the Olympic gathering, they said.