Beijing Olympics burning questions: Opening music, pandas for medals, Daft Punk
Forget the medals and the athletes for a moment: Are those Big Air athletes competing at a closed nuclear plant?
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
CNET freelancer Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
This is the time every few years when many watchers scramble to become experts on curling or biathlon. But sports aside, some parts of the Olympics are just plain puzzling. What's with that opening ceremony music? Are athletes getting pandas instead of medals? Is that Daft Punk playing on my ice, my ice?
Here's a look at some of the numerous burning questions viewers may have as they watch the 2022 Games.
Is that shirtless flagbearer back?
No. But also, yes. Tonga's Pita Taufatofua made a name for himself by marching in the opening ceremonies of three straight Olympics (winter and summer). He isn't there this year, but Nathan Crumpton, competing for American Samoa, marched in the Feb. 4 opening ceremonies shirtless despite wintery temperatures.
Are some athletes getting pandas instead of medals?
Yes. And also, no. At some ceremonies, athletes are handed a stuffed panda toy of Olympic mascot Bing Dwen Dwen -- but they get their medals later on.
"Speed skaters have a venue ceremony where they get the stuffed panda, but they receive medals later at a victory ceremony at the medal plaza," notes the Today Show. "Meanwhile Alpine skiers have their victory ceremonies, including the medals, at the venue."
What are those giant towers next to the Big Air events?
If you've watched the Big Air events, you might have seen some enormous concrete cooling towers in the background of the sporting action. While many viewers assumed the towers were part of a nuclear power plant, they're not. The Big Air Shougang Park venue in downtown Beijing is part of an urban redevelopment project, and those blunt towers are part of an old steelworks.
"The venue was constructed at the site of a 100-year-old former steelworks of Shougang Group, which had another connection to the Olympic Games," The New York Times reports. "It was shut down before the 2008 Summer Olympics, because it was a source of the air pollution that once choked the city."
What was up with the opening ceremony music?
Some viewers may have expected traditional Chinese music to accompany the parade of athletes at the opening ceremonies. Instead, they heard a short list of 19 familiar classical music excerpts.
According to The Guardian, event organizers said the musical choice was meant "to show the respect of the Chinese people to culture around the world."
The order of the countries marching in during the opening ceremonies always throws some people off.
Greece always enters first, a place of honor given to it as the home of the first-ever Olympics. The second-to-the-last spot goes to the country that will host the next Olympics of this type -- this year, that's Italy, since Milan Cortina hosts the 2026 Winter Games. And the host country always comes in last, to maximize the home-court cheers.
But the rest of the nations might seem jumbled to people who only know English. Why is the US entering before Austria? Because the team didn't enter the stadium in western alphabetical order.
"China's primary language, Mandarin, doesn't have an alphabet like English does, instead it uses characters, which may be entire words themselves," according to Bloomberg. "So for the Parade of Nations order in this Olympics, nations will enter based on stroke order, which is the number of strokes in the first character of the nation's name in Mandarin, and the order by which the strokes are made."
What was with the women's hockey teams and masks?
On Feb. 7, Canada played the Russian Olympic Committee in women's hockey. The game was delayed an hour, CBC reports, because the ROC didn't provide Canada with its COVID-19 test results, and six ROC team members had previously tested positive. Both teams eventually donned masks to play, but when negative test results came in, Canada's players chose to keep their masks on for the third period, while the ROC team members took off theirs.
Then, on Feb. 8, Finland played the ROC team, and while the ROC players didn't wear masks, Finland's team did wear them. And then NBC reported that one of the ROC players, forward Polina Bolgareva, tested positive for COVID-19.
"I don't understand how this happened," ROC team coach Evgeny Bobariko said, according to NBC. "Her test in the morning that had shown a negative result suddenly became positive."
Did those skaters really perform to Daft Punk?
Yep. US ice dancers Madison Chock and Evan Bates performed on Feb. 6 to a medley of three Daft Punk songs, Contact, Within and Touch. (Not included? Daft Punk's big 2013 hit, Get Lucky.) The duo rode those tunes to a victory in the free dance portion, contributing to Team USA's silver medal.