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Russian President Vladimir Putin watches the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics on February 4.
Russian President Vladimir Putin watches the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics on Feb. 4. (Matthew Stockman / Getty Images)

On the eve of the Beijing Winter Olympics, Chinese officials and state media many times accused The United States and its allies are trying to “sabotage” the Olympics, lashing out at their diplomatic boycott of China’s human rights record.

But the past two weeks have shown that it is Russia – China’s close friend and strategic partner – that has somewhat eclipsed the Olympics, both inside and outside the sports arena.

Early in the first week, one of the most watched events of the Olympics, figure skating, was rocked by a doping scandal surrounding Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva, who 15 year old gold medal winner. After a stunning performance on her Olympic debut, Valieva was revealed to have tested positive for a banned substance in December – an explosive controversy that quickly captured global media attention. about the Olympics.

And thousands of miles away from Beijing, the massive buildup of Russian military forces near the Ukrainian border has raised alarm bells across Europe and beyond. Fear of a full-scale invasion by Moscow has put the Western world in jeopardy.

For the host country, both are unwanted distractions from its pivotal moment in global attention. But given Beijing’s close relationship with Moscow – which both sides describe as “the highest level in history” – Beijing cannot risk being seen as critical of Russia.

Finally, Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the Chinese capital earlier this month to show his personal support for the Olympics, attending an opening ceremony held by most Western leaders. tear away.

And as the doping and Ukraine crises caused a stir around the world, China downplayed both issues for domestic audiences.

On Tuesday, all eyes were on Valieva as she stepped onto the ice at the women’s short show. Although she was given permission by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, her positive drug test results loomed large during the event, potentially preventing her from winning a medal if she steps in. to the podium.

Editor’s Note: A version of this story appeared in CNN’s China Meanwhile, a three-weekly update that explores what you need to know about the country’s rise and its impact on the world. gender. Sign up here.

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Analysis: The moment China's Winter Olympics are being overshadowed by 'close friends'

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