One of the most exciting parts of the Olympic closing ceremony? The peek we get at the next Winter Games. The next host city gets a chance to tease what's in store, and Beijing's 2022 Olympics closing ceremony performance blew everyone away. It had roller-skating panda bears and dancers emblazoned with tiny lights, and the crowd (and viewers) loved it.
To kick things off, PyeongChang's representative handed the Olympic flag to International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, who then handed it to Beijing's own representative, signaling the kickoff of the four-year waiting period. Although Tokyo is technically the next Olympic host (it will be home to the 2020 Summer Games), the flag is passed between cities who specifically are hosting the Winter Games.
The performance itself was a visual spectacle, featuring more than two dozen dancers on roller skates, seemingly floating screens with tiny scenes playing out on them, and outfits lit by miniature lights. At the center of the action were two larger-than-life panda bears, who led the rest of the skaters against a backdrop of neon lights.
Unlike Tokyo's eccentric performance in Rio that teased the next Summer Games (more on that later), Beijing's placed emphasis on the performers. The entire performance was essentially two dozen roller skaters performing on an ever-changing floor of neon lights.
The tail-end of the performance segued into a video of athletes and Beijing citizens alike training for the next Games in Beijing and getting ready to welcome spectators. Ice skaters, hockey players, skiers, and a plethora of regular people greeted the camera with the refrain: "See you in Beijing!"
Following the performance, IOC president Thomas Bach delivered comments on the ability of sports to bring nations together: "You have shown how sport brings people together in our very fragile world," he said. "You have shown how sport builds bridges.”
"I say thank you — for warming our hearts, even in the coldest temperatures," he said to the volunteers of the PyeongChang games.
"And now, it is my obligation to declare the Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang 2018 closed," Bach said, as is tradition. With these comments, he formally concluded the Games and paved the way for Beijing to take the mantle.
The entire spectacle was a far stretch from what we saw during the last Games preview. During the 2016 Summer Olympics closing ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, Tokyo put on a magically weird performance that started with a video-game-like clip that took viewers on a whirlwind cultural tour of Japan and featured Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe popping out of a Super Mario pipe. It had a futuristic light show and dance performance and culminated with fireworks set to the sound you hear when you complete a level in Mario Bros.
Compared to Tokyo's closing ceremony segment, Beijing's was almost low-key.
While 2022 might feel like it's forever and a half away (it'll be two years after the United States' next presidential election!), there will be plenty to keep you occupied until then.
Tokyo's Summer Olympics start July 24, 2020, but you've also got the FIFA World Cup starting in June of this year, and also, literally every single one of the events featured in the Olympic Games have their own world championships, where athletes go to qualify to make the big league.
Got a favorite event? The World Figure Skating Championships, the FIL World Luge Championships, and the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup are held nearly every year, for a start. So, settle in, find your favorite athletes, and the Beijing 2022 Games will be here before you know it.