Spyros Capralos: President of the European Olympic Committee, President of the Greek Olympic Committee
XIAO Lianbing: Secretary General of Guangming Daily International Exchange, Cooperation and Communication Center
The entire world witnessed the determination and energy of the Chinese people at the spectacular opening ceremony at the Bird’s Nest Stadium
XIAO Lianbing：The Olympic Winter Games in Beijing was held from February 4 to 20 this year. What is your comment on its preparation? What’s your expectations on its Opening Ceremony, global participation and the Games in general?
Spyros Capralos：From the moment China won the bid to host the Olympic Games, and despite the challenges and difficulties raised by the pandemic that came along the way, Chinese people have shown great determination and commitment to achieve the greatest Games. Their commitment to the international community was not only to ensure successful Winter Olympic Games but also to host safe and secure games for the athletes, their entourage and officials coming from all over the world. In addition to that, the Organizing Committee’s efforts were also driven by the principles of hosting a “green, inclusive, open and clean”Olympic Games, by implementing a comprehensive sustainability plan that has revolutionized the entire process of staging and delivering Olympic Games. In light of all the above the international community has turned its eyes to China, expecting the organization of the Olympics to be of the highest standards. And we are anything but disappointed. The entire world witnessed the determination and energy of the Chinese people at the spectacular opening ceremony that took place on the 4th of February at the Bird’s Nest Stadium, the exact same venue that hosted the opening ceremony of Beijing in 2008. Witnessing this historic moment is indeed a great privilege for all of us who have come to the Chinese capital to experience the excitement of the Olympic Games. The Chinese people made a promise, and they kept it! The engagement to make full efforts and deliver a splendid, exceptional, and extraordinary Olympic event for the world. The desire to make sure all participants feel the warmth of the Chinese hospitality despite the hostile atmosphere reflected by the pandemic and provide confidence, and hope for a better future to all.
XIAO Lianbing：You have witnessed and participated in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Tell us what role you played back in 2008. From “One World, One Dream” to today’s “Together for a Shared Future”, what’s your comment on the fact that Beijing is the only city in the world to host the summer and winter Olympic Games?
Spyros Capralos：The 2008 Beijing Olympic Games followed the 2004 Athens Olympics, which I had the pleasure and privilege of serving as Executive Director and Deputy Chief Operating Officer of the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee. As the next country preparing to host the Summer Olympics, China naturally built very close ties with Greece. We were happy to share our experience and work closely with the people from the Beijing 2008 Organizing Committee. Fourteen years later, Beijing is making history by being the first country to host both the summer and winter editions of the Olympic Games. There is no doubt that China is a very important member of the Olympic Family. With this record, China demonstrates its commitment to the Olympic ideals and shows that the power of sport can reconcile our differences with respect and bring us closer together by focusing on our shared values. By hosting both summer and winter editions of the Olympic Games, China also demonstrates the importance of sport in the country's culture and the unique legacy it brings to future generations. In this way, China also expresses its fervent desire to open up to the world and expand its civilization and philosophy.
We can only go faster, we can only aim higher, we can only become stronger by standing together — in solidarity
XIAO Lianbing：The IOC added “Together” to the official Olympic motto at the 138th session in July 2021. Why did the IOC revise the motto into “Faster, Higher, Stronger – Together”? What’s your reading of the official slogan of the Beijing Winter Olympics “Together for a Shared Future”?
Spyros Capralos：The Olympic motto CITIUS, ALTIUS, FORTIUS has inspired and motivated generations of Olympic athletes over the years. A motto that, until today, has been all about aspiration, achievement, and excellence, a powerful call to scale the heights, expand horizons, reset standards, beat the clock, and be the best, has suddenly changed! The renewed motto of the Olympic Games was officially announced on July the 20th 2021 by the International Olympic Committee. A motto that now recognizes not only the spirit of excellence but more importantly the unifying power of Sports. Just the addition of a single word: “Communis”, “together” gave suddenly a new perspective to the purpose and meaning of the Olympic Games. In his remarks before the unanimous vote, IOC President Thomas Bach explained in a single sentence the deep significance of this change and the link between the renewed and the original motto: “Solidarity fuels our mission to make the world a better place through sport. We can only go faster, we can only aim higher, we can only become stronger by standing together — in solidarity.” “Together for a shared future”. The Beijing 2022 slogan is closely aligned with the renewed Olympic motto “Faster, Higher, Stronger – Together”. This slogan is a commitment towards overcoming global challenges as one community with a shared future for humanity. Athletes coming from all over the globe will once again come together in one place, Beijing, to compete and show everyone how strength, resilience and determination can bring hope, unity, and inspiration to people around the world. And this slogan takes on even greater meaning in these difficult circumstances we all face, as our athletes are confronted with the greatest challenges the pandemic has brought. Therefore, in times of pandemic, the Olympic Games should inspire nations to unite and put an end to all the crises and challenges that the world is facing such as the catastrophic effects of climate change, conflicts, wars, and diseases, just as they motivate athletes to work hard and overcome great obstacles for the joy of participating and competing in the world’s greatest sporting event!
XIAO Lianbing：Despite radical changes unseen in a hundred years and the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, China has overcome various difficulties and fulfilled its promise to host the Winter Olympics. What do you make of this? Why is it important to host the Beijing Winter Olympics successfully?
Spyros Capralos：Since early 2020 COVID-19 invaded the entire globe and its spread resulted to a global crisis of unprecedented reach and proportion. Countries and cities across the world entered unforeseen lockdowns with the closure of schools, cultural and sports venues and all non-essential businesses while international travel was severely restricted. On March 11, 2020, just 4 months before the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, the World Health Organization declared that the global COVID-19 epidemic had spread to the point of constituting a pandemic. Obviously, the world’s biggest sporting event could not take place under these circumstances and on March 24, 2020, the postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games was officially announced. The decision was made not only to protect the health of Olympic athletes and those involved in staging the Games, but the wider public health in the host city and country.The decision brought both a sense of relief and impending chaos to the international sports community. Never before had the Olympic Games been postponed or canceled for anything other than war. The postponement of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games had a disastrous impact to the 11,000 Olympic athletes and 4400 Paralympians which were due to take part in this top sporting event. It is well known that the participation to the Olympic Games is the dream of every athlete, and they train very hard for it. This made us realize that we all, members of the Olympic Movement, definitely need to work all together in order to make the Olympic Games take place successfully, because above everything we owe it to the athletes for their hard work and their perseverance. The Winter Olympic Games in Beijing will be the first Winter Olympic Games since the beginning of the pandemic.
In order to face the challenges of the 21st century, the global community should in the same manner the people of China did
XIAO Lianbing：What are the impacts of COVID-19 on humanity and the Olympic Movement?
Spyros Capralos：The Covid-19 pandemic is a social and an economic crisis just as much as it is a health one. Its effects are felt all over the world. Just as it affects all segments of the population, it also affects the world of Sports and the Olympic Movement. Since its outbreak, the COVID-19 pandemic has spread to almost all countries of the world. Social and physical distancing measures, lockdowns of businesses, schools, and overall social life, that have become common to contain the spread of the disease, have also disrupted many regular aspects of life, including sports and physical activity. To safeguard the health of athletes and others involved, most major sporting events at international, regional, and national levels have been cancelled or postponed – from marathons to football tournaments, athletics championships to basketball games, and more. The Olympics and Paralympics were postponed for a year for the first time in the history of the modern games. The cancellation of the Games not only has an economic impact, but also affects the many social benefits of global and regional sporting events that strengthen social cohesion. Sport has long been considered a valuable tool for fostering communication and building bridges between communities and generations. The Olympic Movement has been working very hard since the beginning of this health crisis to find solutions and support athletes and the sport family in a way that minimizes the impact of this health crisis. This health crisis clearly requires collaboration, solidarity, perseverance, and open dialogue. We need to work together, between countries, between different professional groups and share resources and knowledge.
XIAO Lianbing：How do you comment on China’s promise to involve 300 million people in winter sports?
Spyros Capralos：China's contribution to the Olympic movement is enormous. The promise of attracting 300 million people to winter sports is a sign of the positive impact the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics will have on the fight against the COVID -19 pandemic. From the recently published surveys, it appears that this goal has been achieved and a lasting legacy has been created for future generations. In order to face the challenges of the 21st century, the global community should invest time and resources in sport activities, in the same manner the people of China did and set this example for others to follow.
XIAO Lianbing：The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind in conjuncture with the Olympic Spirit. The Olympic Movement requires mutual understanding in the spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play. What is your reading of the purpose of the Olympic Movement and its Ideals? How important are they to world peace?
Spyros Capralos：Peace is one of the fundamental elements existing in the Olympic Movement which is addressed to all nations of the world calling for the observance of the Olympic Truce. The "Olympic Truce" was established in the 9th century BC in ancient Greece by the signing of a treaty between three kings. During the period of Truce, athletes and their families could travel in complete safety to participate in or attend the Olympic Games and return afterwards to their respective countries. Considering the new political reality in which sport and the Olympic Games exist, the IOC decided to revive the concept of the Olympic Truce for the Olympic Games, in order to protect the interests of athletes and sport in general as much as possible and to use the power of sport to promote worldwide peace, dialogue and reconciliation.
The meaning of "shared future for mankind" is obviously not about replacing but about exchanging, sharing and communication
XIAO Lianbing：The values that are shared by all humans emerge from the development of the times, so do those of the Olympic Games. The outbreak of the pandemic and climate change highlight the fact that humans share their destiny and shoulder common responsibilities. As an advocate of the Olympic Spirit, do you agree that the concept – “a community of shared future for mankind”will become a part of universal values in the post-pandemic era? And how is the concept related to the Olympic Spirit and Movement?
Spyros Capralos：The global crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing and growing environmental challenges have made us realize that each of us, regardless of our social or national background, is affected. It is clear that it is our responsibility to change things, and we must act now! Each individual has a duty to act in the best interest of their environment and society as a whole to make this world a better place for future generations. The world we live in is changing faster than ever before. It is changing socially, technologically, economically and also environmentally. This is a significant challenge for citizens to deal with. If we want to move forward, we have to embrace change and the only logical way forward in this rapidly changing world, is to work together instead of seeking isolation. Solidarity is also one of the pillars of the Olympic Spirit and Movement. It is highlighted in the IOC’s campaign “Stronger Together”, which was launched a few months before the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The campaign focuses on a people-centric message of Stronger Together, emphasizing the IOC’s message of solidarity and the belief that the world moves forward only when it moves together, and the irresistible power of the Olympic Games to unite people, communities and societies across the globe.
XIAO Lianbing：President Xi said in his speech at the Conference Marking the 50th Anniversary of the Restoration of the Lawful Seat of the People’s Republic of China in the United Nations that “To build a community with a shared future for mankind is not to replace one system or civilization with another. Instead, it is about countries with different social systems, ideologies, histories, cultures and levels of development coming together for shared interests, shared rights and shared responsibilities in global affairs, and creating the greatest synergy for building a better world.” What is your comment on such a proposal?
Spyros Capralos：China has a long history and a glorious culture of nearly five thousand years, which we all admire and respect. China is one of the oldest civilizations in the world and is considered one of the cradles of civilization, just as the Hellenic civilization is. This rich culture can still be felt in the modern country. It can be seen in the traditions, artistic expressions and even in the behavior of its people. There is no doubt that these civilizations cannot and must not be replaced. They have left an important legacy in the contemporary world that is deeply engraved. The meaning of "shared future for mankind" is obviously not about replacing but about exchanging, sharing and communication. The meaning of "shared future for mankind” lies in the idea that the future and destiny of each nation and country are closely connected. The recent health crisis has shown that we all face the same challenges, and we all share the same concerns when it comes to global crises and environmental concerns. Therefore it is essential that we work for a common cause and strive to make this planet a harmonious world that provides a better life for each and every one of us. Although different countries have different histories, cultures and systems, they should all live in solidarity and equality. They should respect each other and learn from each other. All countries should transcend national, ethnic, cultural and ideological boundaries and adhere to the common values of peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy and freedom for all humankind to build a community with a common future that is mutually beneficial and enables common development.
XIAO Lianbing：Exchanges, sharing and communication are very important for a country, a nation and its people to connect with the rest of the world. Through exchanges, civilizations become more colorful; amid mutual learning, they grow and progress. Based on what you have seen and heard about China, would you please share your impression of China and the Chinese people?
Spyros Capralos：China is an amazing country with charming and captivating people who constantly strive for excellence, perfectionism and innovation. It is also one of the leading cultural forces and one of the earliest civilizations that helped shape our world. However, the most admirable thing about China is the fact that the country has managed to maintain its strong identity while expressing its fervent desire to discover and learn from other cultures. This aspect explains the nation’s efforts to open up to Western cultures and promote communication and exchange. The willingness to open up to the world can only be seen as beneficial. We can learn a lot from China, a country and civilization with such heritage. I also find this desire of the Chinese people to improve and progress by seeking diversity truly admirable. Communication and cultural exchange are very important values to the Olympic Movement, they stand very closely with the values of equality and solidarity. Therefore the exchange of ideas and expertise can definitely be seen as positive and beneficial to every one of us and so the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games slogan “Together for a shared future” takes on all its meaning.
Sport is not only about physical skills, but perhaps above all, about mental strength
XIAO Lianbing：People are having new understandings of sports. In the past, people only knew that “sports enhance physical fitness”, but today they know that “sports transform the brain”. How should physical education be carried out in schools in the post-COVID era? And where is the Olympic Movement going in the future?
Spyros Capralos：Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has also affected sports, as it has affected many other activities. Physical training and the practice of sports in general has become a real challenge in times of isolation and physical distancing. This unprecedented situation led to negative effects such as inertia and raised feelings of disappointment and failure among athletes in a global scale. The Olympic Movement understood very early that there was an urgent need to find solutions in order to re-introduce physical education in the young people’s life, not only in high level athletes but also in amateur sports and in schools. There is no doubt that sport is not only about physical skills, but also, and perhaps above all, about mental strength. Sport stimulates great human abilities such as motivation, positive thinking and self-confidence. It helps to set goals and go beyond human efforts to achieve them. These elements are very important in the context of education in general, and therefore it is clear that sport must necessarily be promoted at the highest level in any educational environment. The Olympic Movement is continuously working towards the enforcement of sport in the education of young people. The National Olympic Academies around the world are doing a great job in implementing a series of actions and educational programs that are always guided by the promotion of the principles and values of sport and Olympism and the dissemination of the Olympic ideals. Sport is a universal language that inspires hope. Sport plays a vital role in boosting motivation among young people around the world, it encourages communication and exchange. Just as it is essential for education to cultivate the mind through culture and learning it is equally important to cultivate the body and mind through sports and competition. Hopefully the younger generation will embrace this view and we will see more and more people involved in sports. This is an encouraging message of peace and solidarity for our future world.