Digital currency makes Olympic debut

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China is ready to showcase its state digital currency, the e-CNY, as an official payment method at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, which kicks off on Friday.

According to a statement from the People’s Bank of China (PBOC), all payment services related to the Olympics have been prepared, including accounts, bank cards, mobile payments, cash, and the digital yuan.

The e-CNY is China’s Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), which is essentially a clone of the fiat yuan in the form of a digital asset. Unlike decentralized cryptocurrencies, which are banned in China, the e-CNY is fully controlled and governed by the central bank.

The e-CNY is already accepted at the Beijing Olympics’ official store in the Main Media Center (MMC), which officially began 24-hour operations on Monday.

The Olympics will be part of a gradual e-CNY rollout, which has already been test-launched in five major Chinese cities, including Shanghai and Shenzhen. On January 4, the PBOC also launched the e-CNY wallet on the iOS and Android app stores countrywide. By mid-January, the e-CNY wallets had nearly 261 million individual users, roughly one-fifth of the entire Chinese population, with e-CNY apps ranking as the fastest-growing by downloads in the country.

However, the e-CNY is still in pilot mode. Although the wallet is available for download across the entire country, only users from the five pilot cities and the Olympics venue can sign up and actually use the digital currency. For now, the e-CNY can only be used for a limited number of transactions.

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