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Why are countries not in (Latin) alphabetical order in the Winter Games opening ceremony?

The 2022 Winter Olympics opening ceremony sees each country presented, but the order is different to the one expected by those using the Latin alphabet.

BEIJING, CHINA - FEBRUARY 2:Members of the Olympic Torch detail walk with a small flame carrier at a show that was held as part of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Torch Relay at Shougang Park, which will host freestyle skiing, on February 2, 2022 in Beij
Kevin FrayerGetty Images

The opening ceremonies of each edition of the Olympic Games tend to be highly anticipated shows, with one of the highlights being the presentation of each country and their proud flag bearers taking the stadium while the eyes of millions around the world gaze on. 

One little detail to note about this Friday's opening ceremony for the 2022 Beijing Winter Games is that the representatives of the 91 countries taking part will be making their entrance in an order that is unfamiliar to those watching expecting it to be in alphabetical order using the Latin or Roman alphabet - the alphabet you're reading this article in. 

That said, the first country to march in the Parade of Nations is Greece, as always. They have been given this privilege due to their role in the birth of the Games. Meanwhile, the host nation, China, take last position, while the host for the next Winter Olympics, Italy, will march before China.

Non-alphabetical order for Winter Olympics Opening ceremony

More on the Winter Olympics:

Under IOC rules, the rest of the participating countries make their entrance in alphabetical order, according to the language of the host nation. Since the writing system of Chinese is considered non-alphabetic, the resulting order of nations is determined in a vastly distinct way. Instead of "alphabetical order", it could be more accurately called “stroke count order”, meaning it is dependent on the number of strokes used in the Chinese characters representing the country’s names.

The characters used are based on simplified or standardized Chinese characters, much like those used in Chinese dictionaries. Two things are considered in sorting the countries’ names- the number of strokes, and the order of the strokes.

First to be considered is the number of strokes in the first character, then the order in which you write these strokes. (For instance, straight horizontal strokes come before straight vertical strokes.) After that comes the stroke number and stroke order of the second character, then those of the third, and so on.

Turkey first, Australia last

With this method, Albania, which is expected to come first, will be number 40. Australia, also usually one of the first to appear, will come in last (before future host Italy). The first character in Turkey’s name has only three strokes, so they will enjoy a rare early appearance, as they will be the first to march after Greece.

The United States, usually right at the end gets a little boost up the running order, and will be in 56th place for this ceremony.

Country names in order for the Opening Ceremony
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Country names in order for the Opening CeremonyGoogle Translate

This order can be confusing for a lot of those in the western world who are more used to the Latin alphabetical order. For international media covering the games, more attention needs to be paid so as not to make any mistakes in reporting the parade sequence.

The order we'll see on Friday at the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics is of course the same as that used at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.

At the start of the 2008 Olympics, NBC reportedly posted videos of the opening ceremony in the wrong order which caused conspiracy theorists to take to message boards to speculate that the company had done it on purpose to increase views.


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