The rollout of the digital yuan ahead of the Beijing Winter Olympics will allow overseas athletes and spectators to use China’s central bank digital currency (CBDC) for the first time.
The e-CNY becomes the currency of exchange in the Beijing Olympic Village
Visitors will be able to download an app or receive a physical card containing digital yuan, depending on the Bank of China Ltd (BOC). They will also be able to exchange it for foreign banknotes at vending machines, the state lender and official partner of the games said. Meanwhile, some athletes and their coaches may be eligible for wristbands, which act as e-wallets and just need to be swiped. to pay for services or goods.
BOC ensured that the use of the digital yuan becomes a no-brainer for anyone who might attend by looping a promotional video on a big screen at one of its branches in the Olympic Village in Beijing. Merchants in the Olympic Village, such as convenience stores and cafes, as well as station stores near game venues, have all been equipped to accept digital yuan payments.
While the use of the digital yuan will be encouraged, Qu Songming, operations team manager of the Beijing Olympic Village, pointed out that there will also be other payment methods. “The only means of payment are renminbi cash, Visa cards and digital yuan at all competition and out-of-competition venues during the OlympicsQu said. Despite support for the use of the digital yuan, neither Alipay of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. nor WeChat Pay from Tencent Holdings Ltd. will only be available for use in the village.
Facing the boycott
While China hoped to use the Winter Olympics to introduce the use of e-CNY to a global audience, the event faced dwindling attendance just under a month before its launch. Indeed, due to the continued threat of COVID-19, China has prevented many foreign spectators from attending.
Diplomatic boycotts and security concerns may also limit the reach of the digital yuan’s appeal. Late last year, the United States announced it would not send a diplomatic delegation to the games because of China’s human rights record. In July, three Republican senators called on the US Olympic Committee to ban US athletes from using the digital yuan, citing concerns about espionage and data security. Given these heightened tensions, it remains to be seen whether other overseas athletes will embrace the digital yuan.
The Chinese government is finalizing the launch of its CBDC by leveraging the Winter Olympics, held in its capital, to expand adoption of the digital yuan (e-CNY). Indeed, it will be honored in the Olympic Village as the main currency of exchange. However, criticisms are being heard, especially outside the country, concerning the real intentions of the deployment of the e-CNY by China. Will the launch of the digital yuan be a success?
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