Woolen Bouquets: An Important Symbol of Commitment to a Low Carbon 2022 Winter Olympics


The Beijing Winter Olympics 2022 has firmly dedicated itself to being a model for hosting fully sustainable large scale events, and transferring crucial “green” advances made during the games towards a greener future for China and the world. Paying close attention to cutting emissions even down to the last detail, the Olympics organizing committee decided to feature woolen bouquets in place of traditional fresh flower bouquets. We will see that this decision not only reflects the efforts of Beijing to host a more eco-friendly Olympics, but also their immense focus on efficiency.


From introducing the Digital Yuan ahead of the Olympics for faster more secure cashless payments (also cutting off chances of pandemic spread), to quick and convenient Covid-19 testing, to speed rail travel between Olympic venues, efficiency is of high importance.
Rigorous afforestation efforts to offset any carbon emissions made due to the games, reusing existing constructions, and powering the games on 100% renewable energy sources are just a few examples for the diligent green measures taken by officials in charge of organizing the Winter Olympics.


A seemingly simple change but an impactful one is the use of Woolen congratulatory bouquets.
It is a choice that will cut off a significant portion of the carbon footprint otherwise brought about by events of this scale.


Why not Traditional Fresh Flower Bouquets?


Fresh flower bouquets simply cause too much harm for a relatively small display time. The heating and lighting required to grow the necessary flowers in Greenhouses require a large amount of electricity, thus contributing to higher emissions. The use of chemical fertilizers and certain bug sprays needed to grow some out-of-season flowers for an event at Olympic scale, is better avoided. Transport needs and pollution caused from it are also immense. In addition, the manpower needed to handle and maintain the bouquets upto the point of presentation is too much, and avoidable.


Traditional fresh flower bouquets are neither eco-friendly nor is it an efficient use of time. Woolen bouquets are a friendlier choice for contestants who hope to maintain it as a keepsake. Athletes would not need to resort to expensive or artificial flower preservation methods if they hope to preserve their bouquets as a souvenir.
The Woolen bouquets are simply eternal.


The Team Behind Bringing Beauty To The Podium


Li Meili, a retiree who has been knitting for the past 20 years, was thrilled to hear that the Winter games would be using woolen bouquets. Her work has been featured at the 4th China International Expo (CIIE) and the 10th China Flower Expo.


Meili, along with many other hopefuls, sent in her proposed designs to the committee. After nearly 4 months of reviewing, Li’s design was approved as the final choice for the official congratulatory bouquet for the Winter Olympics and the Paralympics.


To set off the production of the 1251 bouquets required for the two events, the Hengyuanxiang Group (HYX), a wool manufacturer based in Shanghai, and one of the official sponsors of the Beijing Winter Olympics, began recruiting knitting groups from Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, Zhejiang and Jiangsu to join in the project.
Most of the talent hired for this project are female pensioners.


Li Meili was placed in charge of personnel training, quality control, and the final assembly of the bouquets. Since October 2021, Meili and the team have been working enthusiastically to present their best work.


Crafting the Woolen Bouquets


The Bouquets will feature knitted Rugosa Roses, Chinese Roses, Lily of the Valley, Laurels, Sweet Osmanthus, Hydrangeas, and Olive branches.


According to Gu Honglei, Party secretary of HYX, the Rugosa Rose stands for friendship, the Chinese Rose for perseverance, Lily of the Valley for happiness, Hydrangea for unity, Laurel for victory, Sweet Osmanthus for harvest, and Olive branches for peace.


The bouquet for the Paralympics will also feature the Calliopsis, which symbolizes freedom and eternal happiness.


The perfect knitted design for each flower was arrived at after much trial and error. Natural flower petals were observed individually, while the knitting was adjusted to capture their essence as much as possible. Each flower requires a different technique of knitting.


Li Meili decided to choose thin wool to knit the flowers. Although this makes the production process slower, the bouquets will be more refined. She also chose to add more redundant branches to the bouquets so they felt better to hold.


Each craftswoman uses more than 50 stitch types, and makes sure that each stitch is adequately tight as they work.


A rose petal takes upto 20 mins to complete. An entire rose takes upto 5 hours, taking 35 hours for each bouquet in total. All 1251 bouquets will take nearly 50,000 hours to complete.The knitting technique mainly used for this production was introduced almost 100 years ago to China’s coastal cities. In order to assure the best quality bouquets, each knitting team has been put in charge of only 1 or 2 flowers. The flowers are knit and sent off for final assembly to the relevant teams whom Li Meili overlooks. The process is certainly a great responsibility and a large team effort.


The Significance


The decision to use woolen bouquets are not only a testament to Beijing Winter Olympics’ commitment to being a low-carbon event, but also the dedication to seeing value in both the environment and people. The team of retirees designated to design and produce the wool bouquets worked diligently and with much enthusiasm to complete the project.


The 2022 Winter Olympics was a group effort by the people of Beijing and around China, where all groups of people are seen as prized citizens of the country, whether they are young or old. The teams of pensioners demonstrated skill, commitment, admirable work ethic, and fervor for taking up new challenges regardless of their age.


The bouquets were crafted with love and humble pride in having done good work. The beauty and the longevity of the bouquets themselves will be ample attestation for the teams’ diligence and skill. Not least of all, they will be a symbol of a very green Winter Olympics.