Beijing 2022 on top of agenda of Xi-Bach meeting

By Lu Wen'ao Source:Global Times Published: 2017/1/17 15:38:39

China's preparations for the 2022 Winter Games are likely to be on top of the agenda in Chinese President Xi Jinping's meeting with Olympic chief Thomas Bach on Wednesday in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Xi will become the first Chinese president to visit the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), one and half years after the IOC selected Beijing to host the 2022 Winter Games.

China is boosting its winter sports development, not only in its traditional northern area but also in several southern cities where snow is rare through indoor activities, aiming to have 300 million winter sports enthusiasts in 2022.

He Wenyi, executive director of Peking University's China Institute for Sports Value, told the Global Times that the ultimate goal of popularizing winter sports goes beyond the 2022 Games.

"Popularizing winter sports in China is the foundation of a stronger performance at future Winter Olympics," He said, noting it is a long-term plan. "It's not only for competitive sports but also for public health."

China has been committed to promoting the Olympism since returning to the IOC in 1979, said Zhang Xiuping, executive committee member of the Association of Olympic Journalists, noting China has three IOC members.

According to the Olympic Charter, Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind.

"Besides excellent Chinese athletes, these officials also help promote Olympism throughout  the world," Zhang noted.

Besides Yu Zaiqing, a serving as IOC vice-president since 2008, China's former short track speed skating Olympic gold medalist Yang Yang and former world badminton champion Li Lingwei are IOC members.

He Zhenliang, who died in January last year, was IOC vice president from 1989 to 1993, while Lü Shengrong retired from the IOC member post in 2000.

China's Winter Games performance is far from what it has achieved at the Summer Games, winning only 12 golds in four out of 15 current Winter Olympic sports since 1980. But winter sports in China is gaining in popularity.

According to data released to the Global Times, in Chongli, the county in Zhangjiakou where most of the skiing events of the 2022 Games will be held, the number of winter season tourists has surged from 1.01 million from the 2012-13 season to 1.78 million in the 2015-16 season.

A high speed railway connecting Beijing and Zhangjiakou is expected to be completed by 2019, which could shorten travel time from four hours to one, which could attract more visitors.

Among China's 12 Winter Olympic golds, nine were from short track speed skating, with the sport - dominated by South Korea - accounting for the country's other 21 Olympic medals.

Li Yan, the woman at the helm of China's short track speed skating team since 2006, said she believes the sport's popularity rests on mass support.

In 2016, China organized its first professional ice hockey team, Beijing-based Kunlun Red Star, which plays in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), Eurasia's premier ice hockey league.

Chinese sports authorities are also working with education officials to promote sports in schools. Inspired by China's strong presence at the Summer Games, a growing number of young people have started to engage in sports.

Initiated by football fan President Xi, China began reforming its football program in March 2015, when the State Council issued a 50-point reform project to promote football in the world's most populous country.

All primary and high schools in China are required to hold football classes, according to the reform project. Schools in Beijing are also developing winter sports classes.

Low-budget Games

Beijing is committed to limiting its expenses for the 2022 Winter Olympics, with an estimated budget of $3.07 billion, far less than the recent Winter Games, Sochi 2014 cost $50 billion and Pyeongchang 2018 has set a $12 billion budget.

Half of the budget will go to infrastructure, with the 2022 host city only constructing two new venues: the National Speed Skating Oval and the venue for bobsledding and luge competitions in Xiaohaituo, in the Beijing suburb of Yanqing.

As part of austerity measures, Beijing has transformed the old steel mill of the Shougang Group into the 2022 Organizing Committee's headquarters.

The national winter sports body has begun warming up for the 2022 Games, with the Capital Indoor Stadium, one of the 2022 Games venues, set to host the women's curling world championships in March.

The Genting Resort in Chongli is set to host the FIS freestyle and snowboard world championships in 2021, one year ahead of the Winter Olympics.

Posted in: OLYMPICS

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