June 30, 2015 / 10:14 AM / 2 years ago

Beijing says sports minister probe won't affect 2022 bid

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Xiao Tian, deputy director of General Administration of Sports of China, attends a news conference in Shanyang, Liaoning province, China, August 30, 2013.Stringer

BEIJING (Reuters) - A corruption investigation into a deputy Chinese sports minister who had sat on the country's Olympic committee will not impact Beijing's bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday.

The Communist Party's anti-graft watchdog the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said last week that Xiao Tian, a deputy head of China's General Administration of Sport, is being probed for suspected "serious breaches of discipline and the law", the usual euphemism for corruption.

Wang Hui, spokeswoman for the Beijing 2022 bid team, told reporters that China was committed to holding a "clean Olympics" and that Xiao's investigation showed the "vigor" of the government's ongoing anti-corruption campaign.

"I believe that the handling of Xiao Tian will not in the slightest affect our application. Quite the opposite, it will make Chinese sports even cleaner," Wang said.

"Our confidence has not been shaken. We will as before carry on with our application work," she said.

Wang said she knew no details of the probe, which she had learned about from the media.

"No officials around me have been affected because of this."

Corruption in international sports is in focus because of a U.S. and Swiss probe into world soccer body FIFA.

Beijing is vying with Almaty in Kazakhstan to host the Winter Olympic Games in 2022. A decision will be announced on July 31.

China, which is aggressively seeking to stamp out graft in Party and government ranks, has also sought to eject corrupt elements from its sports establishment, especially within soccer, which has been hit by match-fixing scandals.

President Xi Jinping, an avowed soccer fan like hundreds of millions of his compatriots, has bemoaned corruption in Chinese soccer as a national embarrassment.

The government has given no other details of the probe into Xiao and it has not been possible to contact him. His name has already been removed from the Chinese Olympic Committee website.

Xiao has played a prominent role in the country's sporting establishment. In one of his more recent public appearances, state media reported in May that he presented an award to newly retired Chinese hurdler and national sports icon Liu Xiang.

But in 2009, Xiao made headlines when he delivered a heated, expletive strewn response to reporters when asked about allegations of result-rigging at a national diving competition.

Many Chinese have linked previous sports cheating scandals to China's pursuit of victory and medals at all costs and have criticized the system for putting too much pressure on athletes to succeed.

Additional reporting by Michael Martina; editing by Sudipto Ganguly

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