For decades, Visa has been the exclusive electronic payments provider at the Olympics. However, this year, America’s largest card network is competing with China’s digital currency, the e-CNY, reported the Wall Street Journal.
The Olympics have usually only permitted Visa cards or cash as forms of payment in the event, with those attending mostly preferring Visa over cash. The Beijing 2022 Olympics, however, has added one more form of payment: the e-CNY.
China has massively adopted digital payments such as Alipay and WeChat Pay, making physical cash almost obsolete. Since 2019, the Chinese government has been conducting small-scale trials for its digital tender, recording $1.5 bn in transactions by 2021. The 2022 Olympics are serving as the e-CNY’s largest pilot test.
It is still unclear whether accepting the e-CNY was payment directly conflicts with Visa’s Olympic sponsorship rights. Visa is one of the event’s top-tier sponsors and has signed a multi-million dollar contract that runs through 2032.
The Chinese government says that all points of sale during the event will accept the digital yuan. There will also be teller machines that allow people to exchange foreign currency for e-CNY. In addition, users who purchase a larger amount of e-CNY will receive free gadgets.
China’s digital currency, however, has not proved to be popular with foreigners yet, with many distrusting China’s data privacy and regulatory scrutiny.
“For foreign users, anonymity and privacy is the main issue of concern for the application of digital yuan,” Sebastian Maus, global head of payments at consultancy Roland Berger, told Al Jazeera. “And this is a big concern [for foreign users]. Therefore, I doubt that a lot of tourists or athletes will really download the app and use it.”