Beijing teams up with city 200km away in bid to host Winter Olympics
Capital to team up with Zhangjiakou, 200km away, in bid to be first city to hold both Games
Beijing aims to become the first to host both summer and winter Olympic Games by teaming up with a city 200 kilometres away.
The Chinese Olympic Committee (COC) said yesterday that Beijing and Zhangjiakou, northwest of the capital in Hebei province, would launch a joint bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.
Beijing, the 2008 Summer Games host city, would stage the ice events while Zhangjiakou would host snow sports, Xinhua quoted the COC as saying.
Surprisingly Harbin, another northern city in Heilongjiang province, is not on the bidding list. The city had bid for the 2010 Winter Olympics but was not selected. It was reportedly denied the chance to bid for 2018 by China's General Administration of Sport.
Some internet users questioned the decision, as they believed Harbin was better positioned to host the winter games. Harbin hosted the 24th Winter World University Games in 2009.
"Beijing's convenient transport, strong financial capacity and excellent stadium facilities are advantages for the bidding. Its experience of hosting the 2008 Summer Games is also a plus," said Tu Xiaokun, a basketball referee who served on the Beijing Games organising committee.
Zhangjiakou is surrounded by mountains and its winter lasts six to seven months. It has several large ski resorts which attract Beijing residents in the winter.
Xinhua said a high-speed railway connecting the two cities was planned, with travel times between the two of about 40 minutes. Construction is expected to start at the end of this year.
Beijing's chances could be affected by Pyeongchang in South Korea hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics and the 2014 games going to the Russian Black Sea port of Sochi, between Europe and Asia. Xinhua quoted Beijing Sports Bureau chief Li Yingchuan as saying: "There is a rotation rule, though unwritten, in the bid. Since Pyeongchang won the 2018 bid, Beijing, as another Asian city, will face a daunting task to beat the odds."
Beijing's poor air quality could also be a liability.
"In the evaluation process, environment is a very important factor to be taken into account. Beijing must redouble its efforts to clean up its air if it wants to host the Games," said Tu.
Hours after the bid was announced, the Ukrainian city of Lviv said it was entering the race, Associated Press reported. Almaty, in Kazakhstan, has already lodged a bid. Poland and Slovakia will launch a joint bid this week, and other potential contenders include Oslo and Munich.
The IOC will select the 2022 host city in 2015.