Granite rocks are being slid across ice that’s furiously brushed. Armoured combatants with big sticks and shoulder pads are squaring up to each other. And lycra-clad daredevils are preparing to leap off hills at close to 60mph. Yes, the Olympic Winter Games are upon us.

The sport is, of course, a serious business. We’ll have explainers on the science of the events, and analysis of incredible athletic feats from our global network of academic experts. But the politics of this year’s games is at the forefront of thoughts as they open in Beijing.

Last week we launched an episode of our podcast that looks at human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. And that record has been a key reason behind the decision of countries such as US, UK, Canada and Australia to hold a diplomatic boycott of the games. Today, as they formally begin, we consider why they are so important to the Chinese regime. You can follow our network-wide coverage of all aspects of Beijing 2022 here as the winter games play out this month.

Stephen Khan

Executive Editor, The Conversation International

Zhang Ling/Xinhua/AP

Why the Winter Olympics are so vital to the Chinese Communist Party’s legitimacy

Yan Bennett, Princeton University; John Garrick, Charles Darwin University

The Games are a potent political symbol of the Chinese state’s ambitions and authority.

A satellite captured large and small deforestation patches in Amazonas State in 2015. The forest loss has escalated since then. USGS/NASA Landsat data/Orbital Horizon/Gallo Images/Getty Images

The great Amazon land grab – how Brazil’s government is turning public land private, clearing the way for deforestation

Gabriel Cardoso Carrero, University of Florida; Cynthia S. Simmons, University of Florida; Robert T. Walker, University of Florida

Land grabs spearheaded by wealthy interests are accelerating deforestation, and Brazil’s National Congress is working to legitimize them.

Wachiwit/Alamy Stock Photo

Wordle: how a simple game of letters became part of the New York Times’ business plan

Mark Brill, Birmingham City University

For the news publisher, the key word is ‘subscribers’.

The Conversation in French

Inflation des prix de l’énergie : que peuvent faire les États et les banques centrales ?

Fredj Jawadi, Université de Lille; David Bourghelle, Université de Lille; Philippe Rozin, Université de Lille

L’explosion des tarifs du gaz et des carburants risque d’accroître encore les inégalités socioéconomiques déjà exacerbées par deux années de crise sanitaire. Quelles sont les réponses possibles ?