Three-time Olympian wowed by hospitable hosts
China Daily

Vedrana Malec of Croatia in action during cross-country skiing women's sprint free qualification in Zhangjiakou, North China's Hebei province on Feb 8, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

As a veteran of the Winter Olympics, Croatian cross-country skier Vedrana Malec was amazed by the hospitality and cordiality of her Beijing hosts, as well as the "Star Wars-like" machines and robots washing the floors and serving food.

"Whatever we need, the Chinese handle it right away," Malec, one of seven athletes representing Croatia, told Xinhua on Friday. "Everyone is smiling and kind."

On Thursday, Malec competed in the 10km cross-country race and was preparing for the 30km challenge. After competing at Sochi 2014 and Pyeongchang 2018, an Olympic medal still eludes her.

"When I got here, I was immediately impressed by how everything appears to work perfectly here. We knew in advance that there will be a check-in procedure, so we were a little worried, but it was a breeze."

When she needed technical help with her ski equipment, assistance was given forthwith, she recalled, adding that it was clear that the organizers had prepared for all eventualities well in advance.

"I did not encounter any problems," said the 31-year-old, who has been to Beijing three times.

This may well turn out to be the best organized Olympic Winter Games to date, according to Malec, who carried her country's flag at the closing ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Describing the Olympic Village as "beautiful" and "well-arranged", Malec was also impressed by the high-tech amenities there.

"Machines resembling Star Wars characters wash the floors, robots serve food. China has gone way ahead of Europe when it comes to state-of-the-art technology," she said.

Malec said she will not forget the Croatian cross-country skiing team's Chinese volunteer, Karolina, a student of Croatian studies in Beijing.

"She adores Croatian football player Luka Modric and my country's entire national football team," Malec said.

"Many of my Croatian teammates are here for the first time and they are very sorry that the circumstances do not allow them to see more of this beautiful country," Malec added.

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