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Crypto at the Olympics

The Olympics are filled with blockchain and crypto-related digital marketing, as the cryptocurrency Bitcoin and nonfungible tokens abound. China’s CBDC is also present, despite a tumultuous rollout.

The 2022 Winter Olympics, also known as the XXIV Olympic Winter Games, began on Feb. 4 in Beijing and included cryptocurrency because of China’s government-backed digital currency efforts.

The cryptocurrency industry’s connections to the Olympics have been tenuous over the past several years. In 2014, the Dogecoin (DOGE) community helped finance the Jamaican bobsled team so they could compete at Sochi, which was perhaps the most newsworthy event.

The 2022 Winter Olympics, however, are making history not just because of the presence of nonfungible tokens (NFTs), Bitcoin- (BTC)-supported athletes, the world’s first major central bank digital currency (CBDC) and their potential usage as a payment method in a nation that has effectively banned cryptocurrency trading and mining last year.

China’s digital yuan controversy

The Winter Olympics in 2022 were supposed to be a major showcase for China’s CBDC, the country’s digital currency. For years, the People’s Bank of China, China’s central bank, has been testing the digital yuan in a number of sectors and has now enabled foreigners to use it for the first time at the conference.

The digital currency can be used through the country’s official mobile app, e-CNY, as well as by private sector mobile payment platforms such as Tencent Holdings’ WeChat and China’s messaging application with over one billion users.

COVID-19 restrictions, according to reports, stymied the app’s launch because athletes, officials, and journalists were placed in a “bubble” isolating them from the rest of China to prevent the spread of various COVID strains. The number of individuals attempting the digital currency has plummeted following a series of bubbles, along with government restrictions on in-person spectators.

According to The World’s First Blockchain-Based Crypto Exchange, however, more transactions were done using the digital yuan on the day of the opening ceremony than through Visa. Since the introduction of digital yuan, transactions totaling more than $13 billion have been completed, with approximately 10 million merchants using digital wallets by November 2021. That figure is dwarfed by Visa’s $12.5 trillion volume for the 12 months ending June 30, 2021.

The Olympics have “become a marketing opportunity for governments, typically one that loses money,” according to Fergus Hodgson, director of financial consultancy firm Econ Americas.

“A digital yuan is just another fiat currency that deserves to be outcompeted by private currencies or at least sovereign currencies not built on the backs of slave labor and totalitarianism.”

Antony Blinken, United States Secretary of State, and Janet Yellen, United States Treasurer, have spoken out against the digital yuan’s introduction at the Olympics, implying that it may endanger American interests. In July, a trio of senators wrote to the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee expressing concerns that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) could employ the CBDC to track visiting athletes.

China’s digital currency is expected to provide the country’s authorities with additional instruments to monitor and influence its economy.

“The Chinese government understands that the decentralized nature of crypto assets erodes its ability to monitor data and monitor financial transactions for economic surveillance purposes,” said David McCarville, director at Fennemore law firm.

“The Chinese authorities are clearly focused on using the digital currency to expand their economic surveillance activities,” McCarville said, adding:

“By utilizing the digital yuan, a user is susceptible to ongoing surveillance in addition to potential malware and virus exposure. Without a clear understanding of the closed source coding used to create the digital yuan, it is almost impossible to make an informed decision.”

To Eli Taranto, EQIBank’s chief business development officer, China’s cryptocurrency crackdowns are not related to its CBDC.He told Cointelegraph:

“Crypto represents a sort of grassroot revolution that is changing some balances that were in place until recently. Clearly, not everyone is in favor of these kinds of transformations but, in the long run, they won’t be able to stop them no matter how hard they try.”

NFTs at the Olympics

Nonfungible tokens have been utilized to fascinate fans and art enthusiasts, despite the fact that China’s CBDC has been in the news.

To interact with fans during the Olympic Games, several NFT projects have been established. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) teamed up with nWayPlay, a NFT marketplace and game creator, to establish the Olympic Heritage Collection of Olympic NFT pins as one of the most significant projects.

For the most part, these Olympic NFT pins are digital replicas of real-world collectible and tradable pins that commemorate past Olympic Games through posters, emblems, pictograms, and mascots from the last 125 years.

In addition, the IOC created a play-to-earn (P2E) multiplayer video game designed by nWay called Olympic Games Jam: Beijing 2022. Players can compete in a variety of Winter sports to earn Olympic NFT digital pins in the game.

nWay has introduced a new set of blockchain-based game assets dubbed NFTs. These NFTs can be bought and sold on the nWayPlay marketplace, with gamers able to use them to improve their power-ups, get unique avatar skins, and more. The application is currently unavailable in China, where the Olympic games are being held.

The British Olympic Association, which represents Great Britain and Northern Ireland, has also joined the NFT industry through the Gold Lion Club NFT community. The initiative is intended to get fans involved and was produced in collaboration with commerce provider Tokns.

Fans who purchase Gold Lion Tokns can get access to signed merchandise, celebrity experiences, and a planned immersive clubhouse in the Metaverse.

Alibaba has also created four NFTs called “digital collectibles,” which feature sports and include the Winter Olympics. Traditional Chinese ink painting will be used on these NFTs, depicting speed skating, aerial freestyle skiing, figure skating, and slopestyle.

During the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, Alibaba’s NFTs are accessible on its Tabao and Tmall marketplaces. Given the Chinese government’s position on the issue, Alibaba has made it clear that holders of these NFTs are “forbidden from using them for commercial purposes.”

“NFTs are a fantastic tool to manage sentiment and create long-term loyalty,” says Taranto. He added a Chinese proverb to provide further understanding of digital assets: “Good medicine is always bitter,” which emphasizes short-term sacrifices for long-term benefits.

In China, NFTs are “no different” from crypto assets, and the ban is “certainly temporary,” according to reports from Taranto. “The rules,” he predicted, “will be relaxed as soon as CBDC testing is complete and national adoption is virtually certain.”

The increasing prominence of ‘Crypto’ at events like the 2022 Winter Olympics demonstrates the space’s clout, with it becoming increasingly difficult to overlook. With firms like Ftx, Coinbase, and advertising during the Super Bowl, and new relationships with sports clubs brimming with supporters, cryptocurrency awareness may explode this year.

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