China faces tougher sell in Winter Olympics bid

Tue Jul 8, 2014 7:09am EDT
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(Reuters) - 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.

Along with Oslo and Almaty, Beijing was confirmed as an official candidate for 2022 on Monday, raising a chance of becoming the first city to hold both the summer and winter Olympics.

Officials spared no expense in staging a spectacular Games in 2008, with vastly improved public transport and infrastructure a worthy legacy, but some of the exorbitant venues built for the event became a drain on public finances and a magnet for public discontent.

"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," state news agency Xinhua said, citing Beijing vice mayor Yang Xiaochao.

"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.

The huge expense devoted to the 2008 Games was largely brushed aside by the huge swell of pride in hosting them for the first time.   Continued...