China is going all out to make its CBDC digital renminbi popular. The electronic renminbi is one of three payment methods available to foreign athletes and dignitaries attending the Olympics. E-RMB is one of three payment methods available to foreign athletes and visitors to the Winter Olympics.

In December 2020, retired Chinese pairs skater and 2010 Olympic champion Shen Xue appeared on television to demonstrate the official digital currency for purchasing Beijing subway passes. Shen launched the latest digital RMB wallet, which slides on a turnstile with ski gloves. It is also the central bank's digital currency that will be launched overseas during the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

COVID-19 Pandemic Disrupts Large Electronic RMB Program

With the debut of e-CNY, the Winter Olympics will be a dazzling event that will introduce the digital form of China's sovereign currency to millions of global visitors. Foreign visitors will be able to use e-CNY to purchase items during the Games, which officially begin Friday, without the need for a domestic bank account.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted all plans and the Chinese capital was closed to the world under a "zero COVID" policy.

China’s digital yuan, the e-yuan, makes its global debut at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing

– Chen Hang (@HangChen0308) February 4, 2022

In addition, Beijing adopted a "closed-loop system" for the Games, isolating the 11,000 participants from the public to stop the spread of the virus.

Craig Singleton, senior China fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Al Jazeera that the Winter Olympics will be the first real opportunity for foreigners and Chinese citizens to become familiar with the digital yuan.

However, Beijing's ban on local customers and overseas spectators from watching the games has negated that possibility. The People's Bank of China is at the forefront of CBDC or central bank digital currencies, having floated the idea of a digital yuan back in 2014 as its counterparts were still weighing the benefits of virtual currencies. However, China banned all cryptocurrency activity last year due to concerns that it would disrupt the established financial system and affect the environment.

In January, the central bank announced that more than 261 million individual users nationwide had signed up for the Digital RMB Wallet, an app that uses the electronic yuan. The number of users has almost doubled since October. In addition, Beijing has launched its digital currency pilot test program for the Olympics with a transaction volume of RMB 9.6 billion ($1.5 billion) by the end of 2021, according to data released by the Beijing Financial Supervisory Authority.

In November, People's Bank of China Governor Yi Gang said that the digital yuan is mainly used for retail transactions within China. However, analysts believe the digital yuan still has a long way to go in terms of overseas use.