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SBD Global/July 9, 2014/Olympics

Beijing Vows To Be 'Frugal,' Environmentally Friendly If Named 2022 Winter Olympics Host

Beijing promised a "frugal" Winter Olympics and to "harness the event to clean up the capital's notorious air pollution" if selected as host of the 2022 Games, but the pledges were "greeted with skepticism on Chinese social media," according to Ian Ransom of REUTERS. Beijing Vice Mayor Yang Xiaochao said, "If the Winter Games can be held in Beijing, the philosophy of holding a frugal Games will be put into the work from start to finish. We'll only build or renovate a small number of venues and ... and do the utmost to consider their post-Games use and the use of private funds in their construction." Though Beijing boasts a number of "large indoor venues that can readily host events such as skating and ice hockey," co-host Zhangjiakou, a "little-known city" some 200 kilometres northwest of the capital, will require "substantial infrastructure." Currently a "three-hour drive apart, officials have slated building a multi-billion yuan high-speed rail-link to cut traveling time between the host cities to less than an hour." A successful bid would also mean "lavish expenditure on the skiing venues in the mountains near Zhangjiakou and Beijing." Though the IOC "commended Beijing's government and public support for the Games, the bid scored weakest among the three candidate cities on environmental impact" (REUTERS, 7/8). In London, Roger Blitz reported the three remaining cities bidding for the 2022 Winter Olympics have "again exposed dwindling appetite for bearing the costs of such mega-sporting events." Public opinion, particularly in Europe, has "shifted noticeably against becoming a host," fuelled by the $50B cost of hosting this year's Winter Olympics in Sochi -- four times the original budget -- and "protests in Brazil over the past 12 months over spending" on the World Cup. The 2022 race has "suffered a series of withdrawals from European cities." Even among the shortlisted cities, there "are question marks over whether Oslo will stay in the race because of lukewarm support from the Norwegian government and public scepticism." Growing European "indifference towards hosting the Olympics is reducing the IOC's options and leaving it less able to rotate host cities between different regions." Asia, by contrast, "still has an appetite." If Beijing wins, it would be the "third consecutive Olympics to be hosted in Asia." Pyeongchang in South Korea is hosting the 2018 Winter Olympics and Tokyo will stage the 2020 Summer Olympics (FINANCIAL TIMES, 7/8).
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