The 2022 Winter Olympics (officially called the XXIV Olympic Winter Games) began in Beijing on February 4. Cryptography was a key part of the event partly due to the Chinese government’s ambitions for digital currency.
Over the past few years, the Olympics have not been a strong partner for the cryptocurrency community. Last year’s most notable interaction was the Dogecoin (DOGE), which helped to fund the Jamaican bobsled team so that they could attend Sochi 2014.
However, the 2022 Winter Olympics are set to become history thanks to the inclusion of nonfungible tokens, Bitcoin-(BTC)-supported athletes, and the launch of the first major central bank digital currency. They could also be used as payment methods in a country that effectively banned cryptocurrency trading and mining last Year.
China’s controversy over the digital yuan
The 2022 Winter Olympics was supposed to be a kind of coming-out party, for the digital Yuan, China’s CBDC. China’s central bank, the People’s Bank of China has been testing the digital yuan in various areas for many years and recently allowed foreigners to use it for the first time at the event.
You can use the digital currency through either the government’s app, eCNY, or private sector mobile payment platforms such as Tencent Holdings WeChat, China’s messaging app with more than one billion users.
COVID-19 restrictions prevented the app’s launch. Officials, journalists and athletes were separated from the rest China by quarantine bubbles that were meant to stop the spread of COVID. The government’s restrictions on the number and quality of spectators in person has led to a significant drop in the number of people using the digital currency.
Other reports suggest that digital yuan transactions were more popular than Visa on the day of opening ceremonies.
Since its launch, transactions using the digital Yuan have exceeded $13 billion. Around 10 million merchants will activate digital wallets by November 2021. This figure is dwarfed only by Visa’s $12.5 Trillion volume for the 12 month ending June 30, 2021.
Fergus Hodgson from Econ Americas, a director at financial consulting firm Econ Americas, spoke to Cointelegraph and stated that the Olympics “have become an opportunity for governments, often one that loses money,” and that they have made it a “marketing opportunity for governments.”
“A digital Yuan is just another fiat currency, and should be outcompeted either by private currencies or sovereign currencies that were not created on the backs slave labor and totalitarianism’s shoulders.”
A perceived threat of a digital yuan against dollar hegemony has prompted the United States Secretary of States Antony Blinken to warn against the rollout of the digital yuan at the Olympics. Janet Yellen, Treasury Secretary, also warned against it as it could allegedly threaten U.S. interests. Three senators wrote a July letter to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee claiming the Chinese Communist Party could use CBDC to monitor visiting athletes.
China’s digital currency will give its government new tools to monitor and control its economy.
David McCarville of law firm Fennemore seemed to agree, telling Cointelegraph that Chinese authorities “have cracked down on the cryptocurrency industry as a threat their natural security,” because “the decentralized nature crypto assets undermines the Chinese government’s need to “censor financial transactions and monitor data for economic surveillance purposes”.
McCarville stated that “evidence suggests that the Chinese authorities intend to use the digital yuan for expanding their economic surveillance activities,” and added:
“Users of the digital yuan are subject to surveillance and possible malware and virus exposure. It is nearly impossible to make informed decisions without a thorough understanding of the closed-source coding that created the digital yuan.
According to Eli Taranto (chief business development officer at digital bank EQIBank), China’s crackdowns on crypto may not be connected with its CBDC. Cointelegraph was informed by Taranto:
“Crypto is a grassroot revolution that is changing some of the balances that existed up until recently. These kinds of transformations are not for everyone, but they will be impossible to stop, no matter what they do.
NFTs at Olympics
China’s CBDC is making headlines. However, art lovers and fans of non-fungible tokens are also using them to attract attention.
To engage fans at the Olympics, a number of NFT projects were launched. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) launched one of the most significant initiatives, the Olympic Heritage Collection of Olympic NFT Pins. It collaborated with NFT marketplace and nWayPlay.
These Olympic NFT pins represent digital versions of physical collectibles and tradable pins. They celebrate past Olympic Games with posters, emblems, pictograms, and mascots over the last 125 year.
The IOC also released the play-to-earn multiplayer video game nWay Olympic Games Jam Beijing 2022. Players can compete in a variety of Winter sports to earn Olympic NFT Digital pins.
These NFTs can also be traded on the nWayPlay Marketplace and increase players’ power-ups. They also grant them special avatar skins or sporting equipment. It is not available in China, where the Olympic Games are taking place.
Through the Gold Lion Club NFT community, the British Olympic Association, which represents Great Britain, Northern Ireland and Great Britain, has also entered the NFT space. This project was created in partnership with Tokns, a commerce provider.
Gold Lion Tokns fans can purchase signed merchandise, athlete experiences, and a future immersive clubhouse in Metaverse.
Alibaba, a Chinese tech company, has also launched four NFTs called digital collectibles. They feature sports from the Winter Olympics. These NFTs will be painted in traditional Chinese ink and depict speed skating as well as figure skating and freestyle skiing.
Alibaba’s NFTs will be available on the Tabao and Tmall markets during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics. Alibaba made clear that NFT owners are prohibited from commercially using these digital collectibles, despite the Chinese government’s position on the matter.
Taranto stated to Cointelegraph that NFTs were a “great method to manage sentiment and build loyalty.” He also added a Chinese proverb to provide insight into the current status of digital assets in China. “Good Medicine Always Tastes Bitter” encourages short-term sacrifices to long-term benefits.
Taranto said NFTs are “nothing different” from crypto assets and that China will allow them to “will be permitted in China, and this ban is likely temporary:” He stated that the rules would be relaxed “as soon CBDC testing is completed and widespread adoption is a near certainty.
The orange pill for US bobsledders
Johnny Quinn, a bobsledder for the Olympics, was the latest celebrity to take the orange pill and support Bitcoin. Quinn shared resources on social media that could help his followers learn more about the cryptocurrency. He also warned them not to take orders from the mainstream because they are “confused”.
As a Class of 2021 #Bitcoin-er, I would like to unofficially-officially welcome the Class of 2022. Get ready for an impactful journey that will leave a lasting legacy. It is crucial that you have a clear understanding of #BTC. Below is a list of required readings. Thread
— U.S. Olympian Johnny Quinn, @JohnnyQuinnUSA February 2, 2022
He advised his followers to start small and spend time learning about Bitcoin as money, a payment network, and as a store value. He supported his comments with a barrage media reports that showed how big institutional players, including JPMorgan Goldman Sachs, made a U turn on Bitcoin with time.
Quinn suggested that a dollar-cost-averaging strategy is best for Bitcoin investments with a long horizon. American bobsledder, who was also a celebrity in the sport of promoting cryptocurrency, joined other athletes in taking their annual salaries to BTC.
Not the first Olympian to support cryptocurrency, he is not. Both Cameron Winklevoss and Tyler Winklevoss were Olympic rowers.
The U.S. figure skating governing body is the United States. After partnering with Engiven, Figure Skating also allows donations in cryptocurrency like Bitcoin.
Taranto applauded the fact that crypto and blockchain products had “taken center stage” and were a part the global debate during the Olympics. He also predicted that:
“Whether it be NFTs, Bitcoin, or DeFi today, it is only a matter time before the Olympics take place tomorrow in the Metaverse.”
The growing popularity of crypto at events such as the 2022 Winter Olympics is a sign that the space’s influence has grown to the point where it’s almost impossible not to notice. Crypto awareness could explode this year with new partnerships with clubs and sports clubs, as well as companies like FTX and Coinbase advertising during Super Bowl.