Xi Jinping | AP
Beijing: Chinese Xi Jinping is set to launch the Beijing Winter Olympics 2022 in a grand ceremony on Friday along with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Xi will declare the fortnight-long games open in a ceremony at the Bird's Nest National Stadium here which was built for and launched the summer Olympics in 2008 as well. Also as in 2008, the lavish opening ceremony is being directed by the renowned Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou.
The 2022 Winter Olympics will take place in Beijing from February 4 to 20.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Thomas Bach President of the International Olympics Committee, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan are among the foreign dignitaries attending the event.
The presence of a large number of foreign guests comes as the COVID-19 cases are on the rise in China and Winter Olympics games faces risks of air pollution.
Meanwhile, US was among the first countries to announce its intention not to send any diplomatic representation to the Beijing Winter Olympics over human rights issues in China.
This decision has been backed by other US allies, including the UK, Canada, Germany and Australia. However, athletes from these respective nations are still free to participate in the event.
Meanwhile, India has also chosen to diplomatically not attend the event and described as "regrettable" China choosing to field a People Liberation Army's commander involved in the Galwan Valley clash as its torchbearer for the Beijing Winter Olympics.
Further, India on Thursday expressed regret that Beijing has chosen to politicise an event like the Olympics and said its charge d'affaires will not be attending the opening or closing ceremony of the event.
"It is indeed regrettable that the Chinese side has chosen to politicise an event like the Olympics. I wish to inform you that our charge d'affaires of the embassy of India in Beijing will not be attending the opening or closing ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Olympics," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said at the weekly media briefing.
India's National Broadcaster Doordarshan News has also decided to boycott the event.
Earlier, a Chinese state media report said a PLA commander, who had suffered severe injuries during the Galwan clash will be a torchbearer at the Beijing Winter Olympics.
A US lawmaker on Wednesday slammed China for choosing the PLA commander for Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics torch relay.
"It's shameful that Beijing chose a torchbearer for the Olympics2022 who's part of the military command that attacked India in 2020 and is implementing genocide against the Uyghurs. The US will continue to support Uyghur freedoms and the sovereignty of India," said Senator Jim Risch, a Republican who is a Ranking Member of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
A report in an Australian investigative newspaper has revealed that China is hiding its losses in the Galwan Valley clash with India. The new research has shown that the PLA lost at least nine times more soldiers than its official count of four.
At least 38 PLA troops drowned while crossing a fast-flowing, sub-zero river in darkness, according to an article in the 'The Klaxon' which cited a report prepared by a group of social media researchers after a year-long investigation.