The Games will run until February 20 and are taking place inside a vast "closed loop" bubble designed to thwart the coronavirus.

Chinese President Xi Jinping officially opened the Beijing Winter Games with a dazzling snowflake-themed opening ceremony.
Chinese President Xi Jinping officially opened the Beijing Winter Games with a dazzling snowflake-themed opening ceremony. (AFP)

The first gold medals of the Beijing Winter Olympics are up for grabs at the Winter Olympics as hosts China hope that the sport will roar to the fore after a troubled build-up dominated by coronavirus.

The first medals come in cross-country skiing, in the women's 7.5-plus-7.5-kilometre skiathlon on Saturday.

Then later on Saturday, Canadian freestyle skier Mikael Kingsbury will attempt to win the gold medal for a second consecutive Olympics in the bone-shaking moguls event under floodlights in Zhangjiakou.

And on Sunday, Norwegian skier Aleksander Aamodt Kilde is the favourite in the high-speed men's downhill -- traditionally one of the highlights of a Winter Olympics.

Kilde's American girlfriend Mikaela Shiffrin meanwhile admitted she would be disappointed to leave Beijing without a medal, but warned it was impossible to have a flawless Games.

Shiffrin is one of the headline acts at Beijing 2022 as she pursues a third gold after triumphing in slalom at the 2014 Sochi Games and giant slalom four years later in Pyeongchang.

"I've never in my life had three weeks where I had no regrets and no disappointment," Shiffrin said. "At the Olympics, it’s impossible to have the perfect two weeks."

READ MORE: Sporting action gets under way at Beijing Winter Olympics

Message of peace

The snowflake-themed opening ceremony in the "Bird's Nest" was dazzling but less spectacular than the extravaganza that brought the curtain up on the Beijing Summer Olympics in the same stadium 14 years ago.

Before Chinese President Xi Jinping declared the Games open, IOC chief Thomas Bach appealed to "all political authorities across the globe", urging them to "give peace a chance".

"In our fragile world, where division, conflict and mistrust are on the rise, we show the world - yes, it is possible to be fierce rivals while at the same time living peacefully and respectfully together," Bach said.

The Games will run until February 20 and are taking place inside a vast "closed loop" bubble designed to thwart the virus.

The nearly 3,000 athletes and tens of thousands of support staff, volunteers and media have been cut off from Beijing's general population.

There have been more than 350 Covid-19 cases in the bubble, among them an unknown number of athletes.

Germany's three-time Olympic Nordic Combined champion Eric Frenzel will miss his first event on Wednesday because he tested positive for coronavirus on arrival in Beijing, his team said.

China, where the virus emerged in late 2019, has pursued a zero-Covid policy and adopted the same approach to the Games, with everyone inside the bubble tested daily and required to wear a mask at all times.

READ MORE: Russia criticises doping sanctions ahead of Winter Olympics

Source: TRTWorld and agencies