Jörg Krieger, Assistant Professor of Sport and Social Sciences at Aarhus University
For this issue, the Center has an exclusive interview with Dr. Jorg Krieger. He is an assistant professor of Sport and Social Sciences at Aarhus University. His main research areas are doping and anti-doping history, the transformation of the IaAF, and the history of the Olympic Movement. He is the author of Women in International Elite Sports: Gender and State Participation in Equality and Hunters on Drugs.
As the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics approach, how will the gathering and movement of large numbers of foreign athletes and their accompanying teams affect the Games? How can public health be safeguarded under such circumstances?
The Center interviewed Dr. Jorg Krieger for his insights.
The biggest risk for Beijing 2022 comes from cyber attacks
1.With the 2022 Beijing Olympic Winter Games is approaching, a large number of foreign athletes and their accompanying teams will arrive in Beijing, which will increase population mobility to a certain extent. Under such circumstances, how do you think the 2022 Winter Olympic Games will be affected?
One of the primary concerns that comes with major movements of people is the ability for a threat actor to get lost in the crowd. Beijing’s surveillance of its citizens limits that threat much more than in other nations. We have seen this be true at the Olympic Games dating back to the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow. A ban on foreign spectators somewhat minimizes Beijing’s fear of foreign citizens loudly questioning Beijing’s domestic policies.
2. Apart from objective reasons such as infectious diseases and climate, what anthropic factors do you think will directly or indirectly affect public health safety in this winter Olympic Games?
As you state correctly, as soon as crowds gather, there is an increased risk that infectious diseases will spread. Therefore, the ban on foreign spectators will limit major public health risks.
That said, the plight of the Uyghur Muslims and the Xinjiang province has drawn global attention and there is the chance that someone will take the opportunity to broadcast this message via the global platform that the Olympic Games provides. It is important that the organizers allow such messages to be told without any restrictions regarding freedom of speech. With calls to boycott the Beijing Games growing louder, any attempt to silence dissidents will be met with continued international censure and dent any soft power gains that Beijing hopes to achieve.
We believe that the biggest risk to the Games comes through cyberattacks. This was the case in both recent editions of the Olympic Games, which were both staged on the Asian continent. During the Opening Ceremony for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games, a cyberattack had shut down the entire Wi-Fi infrastructure as well as the security gate using radio-frequency identification. Anyone trying to access their ticket from their
smartphone using the official Olympic application could not do so. Similarly, the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games saw over 450 million attempted, but unsuccessful, cyberattacks. Some of the attacks targeted critical IT infrastructure. Such incidents pose a major threat to public health safety, potentially leading to mass panics or intruders accessing Olympic facilities, with thousands of spectators to be expected at the individual events.
There is no reason to think that Beijing will not face a similar onslaught of attacks and the responsible authorities should be prepared to defend against wave after wave of cyberattacks during the Olympics. At the previous Olympic Games in Beijing, in 2008, the organizing committee faced up to twelve million cyber security attacks per day during the Olympics by one estimate. And cyberattacks as a tool to disrupt mega events have increased significantly over the past thirteen years.
3. What measures do you think should be taken to solve the problems you mentioned above?
We are close to the staging of the Olympic Games now, so most security measures will have been years in the making. Transfer of knowledge between Olympic hosts has become a key feature of Games management over the last several decades. The Beijing 2022 Olympic Games Organizing Committee will have learned lessons on how to handle security from previous hosts, especially the South Korean hosts of the last winter Olympic Games. Even though public health issues might differ from host nation to host nation, possible IT threats as mentioned above can be prevented by sharing experiences from past hosts. Sharing past experiences must be the first step and one that surely has already been taken.
A second key factor is communication between all of the competing nations to help limit the risks to athletes, officials, media representatives and other support personnel at these major events. This is despite the fact that no international audience will be allowed at the Games due to the pandemic as the total number of foreign visitors will extend 10,000 individuals from the above mentioned groups. Beijing has to be willing to have open communication lines with the authorities from each team who are in charge of keeping athletes safe. Historically, this has been a tricky situation. Ahead of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, the United States grew frustrated with Beijing’s reticence to inform other countries of the security precautions that the country was taking to keep visitors to the nation safe. Hosting the Olympic Games is a balancing act for Beijing that weighs maintaining secrecy and sharing information to make sure everything runs smoothly.
Interviewer: Zhang Jiabao
Interview date: November 11, 2021