HAVING won the mandate to host the Third Winter Asian Games in 1996, Harbin now has its sights set on the Winter Olympic Games in 2002 or 2006. The sports events are seen by the city as a chance to attract massive investment in infrastructure facilities and tourism-related facilities. They are also ideal for promoting the image of the city to attract foreign investors. Although Harbin may be the ideal place to host winter sports activities in China, the existing facilities are far from the required standard. In its bid for the Asian Games, Harbin promised to build a skiing centre and a facility for skating events. The Abuli ski fields, 192 kilometres north of the city, will be developed by Orient Inc, which intends to turn the site into a multi-purpose holiday resort after the Games. The main skating site, located in the city centre, will occupy 27.7 hectares, with 700 families scheduled to be relocated to make way for the sports and commercial district. An integrated gymnasium will be built, and the nearby area will be developed into a commercial district. The authorities are keen to have foreign involvement in developing real estate, such as shopping arcades. Apart from sports-related facilities, the city needs to upgrade infrastructure to provide for 1,000 athletes from 20 countries and regions, and thousands of visitors. Hotels have to be built, roads expanded, telecommunications capacity upgraded, the airport developed to international standards, and public transport upgraded. ''The investment in the sports-related facilities is estimated to cost 1.5 billion yuan [about HK$1.32 billion]. Taking into account other commitments in infrastructure, the total cost is estimated to reach three billion yuan,'' said vice-mayor Chen Yunlai. ''Although funds are limited, the Winter Asian Games are very important to our economic development and opening to the outside world, so we are fully committed to this event,'' he said. To prepare for the event, the municipal government has set up a steering committee under the leadership of Mr Chen to oversee the promotion campaign for the event, the construct of facilities, and approval of foreign investment in related projects. The committee has the power to approve foreign investment in related projects and grant preferential policies to investors. Investment in the sports complex and related real estate development, telecommunications and transport facilities is expected to come from South Korea, Japan and Taiwan. The committee will also organise a series of promotion campaigns overseas to stimulate overseas interest in the Winter Games.