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Beijing vows better air for 2022 Winter Olympic Games bid

By Sina English Friday, 07 Nov 2014 20:49

Beijing has pledged to improve air quality and minimize inconveniences in preparation for the 2022 Winter Olympics as it emerged as the frontrunner in its bid to host the Games.

A two-phase plan is current underway in reducing air pollution, with the first phase starting from last year until 2017, and the second from 2018 to 2022.

"These two plans will effectively control the PM2.5 level in Beijing, and will ensure ideal conditions for the Winter Games athletes," Wang Hui, the media director of Beijing's bid committee, said at a press conference on Monday.

Concerns have grown over air quality during sports events. Last month, many of the 30,000 runners at an international marathon in Beijing wore gas masks as the city was plagued with smog, with the air quality index climbing above 400. A reading above 300 is considered "hazardous."

Wang also pledged minimal inconvenience to public transport, with the building of a high-speed rail line from Beijing to Zhangjiakou with 20 to 50-minute rides.

"Most of the venues for the Winter Games were converted from the existing facilities built during the 2008 Games, including the 'Bird's Nest' and the 'Water Cube,'" said Ding Bocheng, senior consultant for Zhangjiakou Bidding Office of 2022 Olympic Winter Games.

"We can't guarantee there will be zero disturbance to public transport, but better control measures will be implemented with the experience gained from the 2008 Games," Ding added. Jeff Ruffolo, senior media and communications expert of the organizing committee of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, told the Global Times that the number of people in the city will rise during such large events and the government should be prepared to ease traffic pressure by encouraging people to take public transport.

Beijing is in a two-city race with Almaty in Kazakhstan, after Norway's Oslo dropped out over public opposition, following the withdrawal of Stockholm, Krakow, Davos and Munich over financial concerns.

If successful, Beijing will become the first city to host both the summer and winter games.

The International Olympic Committee will make site evaluations in February and the winning bid will be announced in July. Beijing is pairing with Zhangjiakou, a city in Hebei Province about 200 kilometers away from the capital. Beijing will mainly host the ice events using stadiums built for the 2008 Summer Games, while Zhangjiakou will host most of the snow sports events.

Foreign media has pointed out that Beijing is currently the stronger bidder with its financial resources, political will and strong public support, although it was considered a long shot.

Observers had previously pointed out that Beijing lacks snowfall and existing venues for winter sports, as well as its lack of experience in hosting winter sports events.



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