Standing in a Beijing skyscraper, one is often mesmerised by the mountains surrounding the “north capital”.
As someone who hails from a mountain city, the mountains in Beijing often reminded me of OR Tambo’s description of the Engeli Mountains.
“Looking out from my home,” Oliver Tambo wrote, “the site of it commanded a wide view of the terrain as it swept from the vicinity of my home and stretched away as far as the eye could see – the panorama bordered on a high range of mountains that faced me. The Engeli Mountains were a huge wall that rolls in the distance to mark the end of a very broken landscape, a landscape of great variety and, looking back now, I would say of great beauty.”
Beijing is where the Xishan and Yanshan mountain ranges meet. The parts of the Great Wall of China near the Chinese capital can be found in the Yanshan mountains whereas Zhoukoudian, the site where the Peking Man was discovered between 1929 and 1937, lies in the region of the Xishan hills.
The fossil specimens found at Zhoukoudian date from 750 000 years ago. Of course, our own Mrs Ples is dated to around more than 2 million years ago. During the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, the Xishan Hills were also where the mountain biking competition took place.
As Beijing prepares to host the Winter Olympics and Paralympics next year, much emphasis is being placed on the environmentally friendliness of the games. It is reported that the games will be the first in the history of the Olympics that all venues will be powered solely by clean energy from renewable sources.
Estimates are that using clean energy will cut carbon dioxide emissions by 320 000 tons while offsetting the burning of 128 000 tons of coal.
In April this year, a solar design competition was launched to encourage young people to engage clean energy strategies. China Daily, for example, reports the employment of new technologies which include the usage of carbon dioxide as a clean refrigerant at four ice sports competition and training centres.
The 2022 games will also be the first in history where 5G technology will be used as well as bullet-time technology to broadcast and record especially high-speed games such as ice hockey.
Yanqing district, on the Yanshan mountain where the Great Wall is found in Badaling, will host the alpine skiing, bobsled, luge and skeleton events. It has four venues and serves as an example of China’s victory with vaccination as well, having vaccinated over three thousand people in the district.
Beijing too, at one stage in its history was, in the words of OR Tambo, a “very broken landscape”. Yet, today, it towers as one of the most developed and beautiful capitals in the world. From this broken landscape rose a capital that could lead the rest of its nation out of poverty and deprivation.
It is this achievement, of China’s ability to make history of poverty, that has led some to cast aspersions on China and its suitability to host the games. But these will not succeed.
Beijing’s hosting of the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics therefore signals a closure in the country’s chapter, as it were. In 2008, when the city hosted the Summer Olympics and Paralympics, China was emerging onto the international stage. It commenced the period of building a modern and prosperous society.
The Olympic Games next winter signals the dawn of that modern and prosperous society. A society that will look to its mountains with hope and welcome its winters with warmth.
* Wesley Seale completed his PhD at Beijing Foreign Studies University.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL and Independent Media.