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Frosty Bubble, No Snow
Machine-made snow has been a winter-Olympics' thing ever since we started dialing up global temperatures, but the Beijing Olympics is the first with no real snow.
To protect Beijing’s 22 million residents from possibly Covid-19-infected athletes, “China has built a city within a city where no one can interact with those living outside, but where there is unrestricted internet access and meals served by robots,” reports Bloomberg.
Most athletes will only have the opportunity to come into contact with some of the 19,000 Chinese volunteers, most of whom will reside in the bubble for three months
Anyone for a night on the town?
The bubble is one thing; the fact that there’s actually no snow is another.
In fact, the snowless ski ramp above is picturesquely placed next to a nuclear power plant. And why not?
Despite Beijing’s ongoing water-supply issues, as The New York Times puts it, “China’s herculean investments in snow making are part of larger efforts to turn the arid mountains near Beijing into a permanent ski and snowboard hub, a project that could face challenges as climate change upends patterns of rainfall and drought.”
Michael Mayr, the Asia manager of TechnoAlpin, the Italian company in charge of snow-making for the Beijing Games and at six previous Winter Olympics told the Times, “You could not have winter sports now without man-made snow.”
Big picture, The Economist bleakly notes: “China’s state-run news agency says the games will ‘break down barriers and prejudices, and illuminate the way forward.’ Sadly, they will not. The event symbolizes a world divided by politics and the virus, and a China turning inward.”
Missing tennis player Peng Shuai (彭帅, Péng Shuài) spoke to L'Équipe, expressing her surprise at the concern about her whereabouts. She said she never accused anyone of sexual assault and had deleted the social media post that appeared to make the claim in November. She also met with Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee. It’s highly likely that Peng is under house arrest a and cannot speak freely.
The Chinese city of Baise (百色, Bǎisè), western Guangxi Province, bordering Vietnam –population approximately 4 million, is in total lockdown due to what officials are saying is the Omicron variant which spread from Shenzhen, reports Bloomberg.
Wu Zunyou, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s chief epidemiologist, told Chinese state media that China would continue with its zero-Covid policy because vaccines could not stop its transmission.
Hong Kong, which is basically in lockstep with its Beijing masters on Covid policy, is also facing a surge in cases, reporting more than 600 cases Monday, according to the South China Morning Post.
The Big Story
The Wire has a great story on how China’s metaverse – in what should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody – is likely to be very different from the metaverse everywhere else.
It’s about censorship:
“It will be much easier for China to oversee development of a local metaverse rather than allowing users to access the ‘global metaverse’ and spending significant resources censoring and blocking certain experiences,” Mario Stefanidis, vice president of research at Roundhill Investments, told The Wire.
It’s about the “money:”
China has banned crypto currencies in favor of its own digital yuan (e-CNY). The global metaverse will likely transact in Bitcoin, Ethereum, Cardano – take your pick – while you’ll need digital Chinese currency to virtually shop in China.
“China’s ban on crypto currencies like bitcoin is another factor that will likely lead to the Chinese metaverse operating apart from the rest of the world. Most experts agree that China’s official digital yuan, or e-CNY, could be used as a local metaverse currency, making it harder for people outside of the country to access.”
It’s about, well … China:
“Decentralization is an important aspect of the metaverse, and any development from China is likely to be highly centralized and subject to state oversight,” says Stefanidis. “It is highly unlikely that the [Chinese] government will relinquish control of the rapidly growing economy of the metaverse.”
Lest we forget
The word from Kashgar was that the wave of arrests there had been so expansive that all existing detention facilities in the city—police-station lockups, prisons, holding centers, labor camps, drug-detox stations—were quickly overwhelmed. Schools and government offices had been repurposed as “study centers” and hastily outfitted with iron doors, window bars, and barbed wire. Rumors spread that outside the city, construction was proceeding rapidly on multiple new internment facilities, each meant to house tens of thousands. Fear reigned. Everyone could only hope that all this “study” would in fact last, as the government said, a matter of months.
Well, you have to put your Ferris wheels somewhere …