Jim McMahon/Mapman®

Get ready for flips, twists, and other amazing athletic feats! The Winter Olympics kicks off February 4 in Beijing, China. Thousands of the best athletes from around the world will compete in skiing, skating, snowboarding, and more.

The Olympics will last 17 days and feature seven new events, including mixed team events in snowboard cross and ski jumping. In mixed team events, men and women are on the same teams.

Nearly 80 Americans are set to compete, including figure skater Alysa Liu, 16, and snowboarder Dusty Henricksen, who turns 19 just days before the Games.

But athletes won’t be the only ones in the spotlight. China itself has received global attention as Beijing prepares to become the first city to have hosted both the Summer and Winter Olympics. The 2008 Summer Games were also held in China’s capital.

Not all of the attention has been positive, however. More than 180 human rights groups are protesting Beijing’s role because of China’s record of mistreating its people. (The U.S. and several other nations put sanctions on the country last year for alleged human rights abuses.) China’s government has denied wrongdoing.

Still, organizers say the Games must go on. “[They] are the only event that brings the entire world together in peaceful competition,” the International Olympic Committee said in a statement. “They [give] us all hope for a better future.”