Croatia's Paralympians Arrive in Beijing ahead of 2022 Winter Paralympic Games

Croatia's Paralympians Arrive in Beijing ahead of 2022 Winter Paralympic GamesCroatia's Paralympians Arrive in Beijing ahead of 2022 Winter Paralympic Games

Slaven Branislav Babic/PIXSELL

February 26, 2022 – Four Croatian Paralympians will represent Croatia at the 2022 Winter Paralympic Games in Beijing starting March 4. 

The Croatian delegation arrived in Beijing, where the XIII Winter Paralympic Games will be held from March 4 to 13. The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) joined the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in condemning Russia’s violation of the Olympic truce, reports HRT.

More than 650 Paralympians from 51 countries will participate in the Winter Paralympics in Beijing, and Croatia’s colors will be defended by alpinists Damir Mizdrak and Lucija Smetiško, snowboarder Bruno Bošnjak and Nordic skier Josip Zima.

The Croatian flag at the opening ceremony will be carried by Bošnjak, winner of the first Croatian medal in the history of the Winter Paralympic Games. At the last Games in Pyeongchang in 2018, Bošnjak won bronze in snowboarding in the banked slalom discipline. Croatia also has Dino Sokolović’s gold in the sitting slalom from the Pyeongchang Winter Games. 

“I am proud, and it is a great honor to carry the flag of my homeland at the opening of the Winter Paralympic Games, and I am looking forward to it,” said Bošnjak.

The opening ceremony is scheduled for March 4 at the National Stadium, popularly called the Bird’s Nest, where the opening and closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics were recently held.

Like the Olympic Games, the Winter Paralympic Games were strongly marked by a pandemic and, in terms of epidemiological measures, are stricter than those in Tokyo.

All participants, athletes, and officials will remain in a ‘balloon’ that will keep them separate from the outside world for the duration of the Games. Athletes had a choice – either to be fully vaccinated or undergo a 21-day quarantine upon arrival, while at the Tokyo Olympics, there was no obligation regarding vaccination. Everyone in the balloon will have to test every day, and as in Tokyo, athletes will have to wear a mask most of the time, except when attending events or on the podium.

The Winter Paralympics in Beijing will be the first major international sports competition since Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine. However, it has not yet been confirmed whether the escalating crisis, which arose after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a military offensive in Ukraine, will affect the participation of Russian Paralympians in Beijing. On the other hand, Ukrainian athletes would like to perform in Beijing, but the question is whether they can make their way to China.

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has joined the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in condemning Russia’s violation of the Olympic Truce ahead of the 2022 Beijing Paralympic Winter Games.

The Olympic Truce began before the start of the Winter Olympics on February 4 and ends on March 20, seven days after the closing of the Winter Paralympic Games. The practice of world leaders adopting an Olympic truce has a long history. The current resolution “calls on all Member States to cooperate with the IOC and the IPC in their efforts to use sport as a tool to promote peace, dialogue, and reconciliation in conflict areas during and after the Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

The Croatian delegation set off for Beijing on the day Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine.

“I do not like the whole situation, but I do not believe that the Games will be postponed or canceled. On the contrary, I hope that this whole situation will calm down,” Bošnjak added.

Shortly after the Winter Olympics ended, Beijing began changing its facilities to accommodate the arrival of more than 650 athletes with disabilities. Chinese authorities, administrative staff, and volunteers in three competition zones – Beijing, Yanqing, and Zhangjiakou, have prepared facilities and venues equipped with several barrier-free technologies to facilitate the stay and competition of Paralympians.

The Paralympians will be housed in the same facilities and compete in the same arenas as the recently best Olympians in the world. So far, the Chinese hosts have conducted more than 100 different village tests, from wheelchair access, bed height, door width, bathrooms, and all the details are published in the “Accessibility Guide.”

For example, the Yanqing Winter Paralympic Village is scattered with a significant height difference, but the village is designed without obstacles with numerous ramps in an environmentally friendly way. Furthermore, everything is optimized for people with disabilities.

Alpinists Damir Mizdrak and Lucija Smetiško will be housed in Yanqing, while snowboarders Bruno Bošnjak and Nordic skier Josip Zima will stay in the Zhangjiakou Cluster.

Croatian athletes with disabilities performed for the first time at the Winter Paralympic Games in Salt Lake City in 2002. They also competed in Turin (2006), Vancouver (2010), Sochi (2014), and Pyeongchang (2018).

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