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6 Minute English

Intermediate level

Preparing for the Beijing Winter Olympics

Episode 220127 / 27 Jan 2022

Introduction

Beijing is preparing to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, but the games will look different this time. Neil and Sam give you an update and teach you some related vocabulary so you can talk about it too.

This week's question 

The Winter Olympics have not been around as long as the Summer Olympics, so do you know when the first Winter event took place?

a)    1904

b)    1924

c)    1934

Listen to the programme to find out the answer. 

Vocabulary

controversy
disagreement or argument about something people have strong feelings about 

in full swing
at its highest level or activity

headache
something that causes you a lot of problems

mountain
(metaphor) large amount of something

dynamic
continually changing and developing 

the clock is ticking
time is running out to prepare for or complete something

Transcript

Note: This is not a word-for-word transcript

Neil
Hello. This is 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English. I’m Neil.

Sam
And I’m Sam.

Neil
Sam, would you describe yourself as ‘sporty’?            

Sam
Well, I do like to go running and I might watch some sport on TV.

Neil
Would you watch sport like bandy, skeleton or perhaps luge? 

Sam
Ah, you’re talking about quite specialised sports, played on ice or snow, and that’s because it’s almost time for the Winter Olympics.

Neil
Yes, you’re right. The 2022 Winter Olympics starts in Beijing on the 4th February. This event will mark the return of the Olympics to Beijing for the first time in 14 years, having previously hosted the 2008 Summer Games.

Sam
That means Beijing will become the first city in the world to have hosted both the Winter and Summer Games. But these latest Games are not without controversy – that’s disagreement or argument about something people have strong feelings about. 

Neil
More about that later – but as usual, I have a question or you, Sam. The Winter Olympics have not been around as long as the Summer Olympics, so do you know when the first Winter event took place? Was it in:
a)    1904
b)    1924, or
c)    1934?

Sam
Well, as they are relatively new, I’ll go for c) 1934.

Neil
OK, Sam, we’ll find out if that’s right later in the programme. Now, this latest Winter Olympics are scheduled to include a record 109 events over 15 disciplines in seven sports - biathlon, bobsledding, curling, ice hockey, luge, skating and skiing. A discipline in this context is a particular way of doing a sport.

Sam
The BBC’s China correspondent, Stephen McDonell, went to a recent test event for the Olympics and explained what the organisers are hoping for…

Stephen McDonell, BBC China correspondent
In the mountains outside Beijing, the test events are in full swing. (The) Games organisers will be hoping (that) despite the coronavirus headaches, despite the alleged human rights abuses, despite the allegations from a former Chinese Olympian - a tennis star at that - involving a senior government official - they can still produce a memorable Winter Olympics.

Neil
So that was Stephen McDonell at a test event which he described as being in full swing – so, at its highest level or activity – its busiest. And he mentioned the controversy surrounding the games. 

Sam
Yes, he mentioned the coronavirus headache – not an actual headache but something that causes a lot of problems. Covid-19 certainly makes it difficult to plan a huge event like this, particularly managing people who are travelling from all parts of the world.

Neil
On top of this, China is accused of human rights abuses against the Uighur Muslims. And there is the controversy around the tennis player, Peng Shuai. 

Sam
But despite the issues facing the game’s organisers, they want to put on an event that is hard to forget, for good reasons – Stephen used the word memorable

Neil
Well, seeing athletes hurtle down an icy track at 130 kilometres an hour on what looks like a tea tray, is certainly unforgettable. This is what they call ‘the skeleton’.

Sam
Let’s hear more about the preparations for the games from the BBC’s Stephen McDonell. 

Stephen McDonell, BBC China correspondent
The games will be held in a freezing, mostly dry area - a mountain of snow making is required, but this can make for quick, dynamic runs. The athletes we spoke to said these sites will make for high-quality competition - for everyone here, the clock is now ticking.

Neil
So, despite this being a winter event, held in a cold place, enormous quantities of artificial snow have to be made. Stephen McDonell describes this as a mountain of snow – not a real mountain – but a large amount of it. 

Sam
But some athletes say this type of snow is good for speed, and changing and developing – or dynamic – conditions. They hope it will be a ‘high-quality’ competition.

Neil
Let’s hope so, and it’s not long until it starts – and for the athletes the clock is ticking, meaning time is running out to prepare.

Sam
And our time is running out too, so Neil, what’s the answer to the question you asked me? 

Neil
Oh yes, I asked you when the first Winter Olympics took place?

Sam
And I said 1934. 

Neil
Which was… I’m afraid to say, Sam, the wrong answer. The first Winter Olympic Games took place in 1924 and were held in Chamonix in the French Alps. The Beijing Winter Olympics is the 24th games. And the Paralympic Games will take place a month later in the city, between 4th and 13th March 2022.

Sam
Looks like I need to brush up on my Winter Olympics knowledge but not before we recap some of the vocabulary we’ve mentioned, starting with controversy – disagreement or argument about something people have strong feelings about.

Neil
We talked about something being in full swing – so, at its highest level of activity.

Sam
And a headache is, metaphorically, something that causes you a lot of problems.

Neil
mountain is not only a very high hill - used metaphorically it means a large amount of something.

Sam
Something continually changing and developing can be described as dynamic

Neil
And finally, the clock is ticking, means time is running out to prepare for or complete something. 

Sam
Well, the clock is no longer ticking for us because our six minutes are up! 

Neil
Goodbye for now!

Sam
Bye bye!

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