While the Olympic Games are the world’s premier showcase for athletes to display their skills, a star of an entirely different kind is also grabbing the spotlight in Beijing – the e-CNY, or electronic yuan. And, so far, it looks as if the world’s first digital currency issued by the central bank of a major economy is set to take the top spot on the podium.
On the opening day of the 2022 Winter Olympics, significantly more transactions were reportedly made with China’s central bank digital currency (CBDC) than through Visa, which has traditionally been the champion at such events, according to CoinTelegraph. Indeed, Visa had had a stranglehold on electronic payments at the Games since 1986. Other than cash, it was the only way to pay for tickets and concessions at official Olympic venues and, if you wanted to buy tickets for events online, you had to have a Visa card.
The main reason for the yuan’s stunning performance was probably summed up by 42-year-old media professional Cai Qianyi, who used his smartphone to buy roast chicken and broccoli at the Main Media Centre before the start of the games. “This is very convenient compared to carrying cash, this way I avoid touching currency notes,” Cai said, according to Bloomberg.
Convenience is key. Consumers can pay by e-CNY in diverse ways, from wallet apps on their smartphones to cards, badges, or wearables like smartwatches and ski gloves. With Sim Pay, a new e-payment tool from telecom giant China Mobile, you can even pay in e-CNY without a network connection or mobile application. And outside of the Olympic venues, various services, including transport, food, hotels, shopping, sightseeing, healthcare, telecommunications, and entertainment, can all be paid for with digital yuan.
Indeed, more than 400,000 payment scenarios have been covered at the Olympics as part of the digital yuan’s pilot project, with transactions exceeding 9.6 billion yuan ($1.509 billion), says Wang Ying, deputy director of Beijing’s Local Financial Supervision and Administration. Moving forward, the digital yuan pilot will be steadily expanded to be used in more scenarios.