NFT skis, Bitcoin bobsledders and CBDC controversy

The 2022 Winter Olympics, officially called the XXIV Olympic Winter Games, kicked off on Feb. 4 in Beijing with crypto being a major part of the event, partly because of the Chinese government’s digital currency ambitions.

The cryptocurrency community hasn’t had strong ties to the Olympics over the last few years. The last major headline-grabbing interaction was when the Dogecoin (DOGE) community helped fund the Jamaican bobsled team in 2014 so they could attend the event in Sochi.

The 2022 Winter Olympics, however, are making history due to the presence of nonfungible tokens (NFTs), Bitcoin- (BTC)-supported athletes, the launch of the world’s first major central bank digital currency (CBDC) and their potential use as a payment method in a country that has effectively banned cryptocurrency trading and mining last year.

China’s digital yuan controversy

The 2022 Winter Olympics were supposed to be a sort of coming-out party for the digital yuan, China’s CBDC. The People’s Bank of China, China’s central bank, has been trialing the digital yuan in several areas for years now and started allowing foreigners to use the digital currency for the first time during the event.

The digital currency can be used through the government’s mobile app, e-CNY, or through mobile payments platforms developed by private sectors including Tencent Holdings’ WeChat, China’s messaging application with over one billion users.

The app’s launch was reportedly stymied by COVID-19 restrictions that saw athletes, officials and journalists be largely separated from the rest of China in a quarantine “bubble” meant to prevent the spread of various strains of COVID. This bubble, combined with the government limiting the number of in-person spectators, has seemingly seen the number of people testing the digital yuan drop significantly.

However, other reports suggested that more transactions were made using the digital yuan on the day of the opening ceremony than through Visa.

Transactions using the digital yuan have totaled more…

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