March 19, 2016 / 3:04 AM / 3 years ago

China's Xi orders clean Winter Games after corruption scandals

BEIJING (Reuters) - China must hold a Winter Olympics that is “clean as the snow” when it hosts the event in 2022, President Xi Jinping said on Friday, after two corruption scandals involving Chinese officials linked to the Games.

A staff prepares documents on a desk before the inaugural ceremony of Beijing organizing committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic winter games at Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China December 15, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Beijing, along with the nearby city of Zhangjiakou, won the right to host the Games last year. The only other city bidding to host the event was Kazakhstan’s Almaty, after other prospective cities dropped out citing costs and other worries.

The run-up to China’s bid last year was overshadowed by corruption investigations into a deputy sports minister who had sat on China’s Olympics committee and the Communist Party boss of Hebei province, where Zhangjiakou is located, who had attended meetings of the bid committee.

Speaking at a meeting with senior Chinese Winter Games and sports officials, Xi said there must be strict budget management to ensure the cost of hosting the Games was kept under control, in comments carried by state television.

“Strengthen supervision, let the Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics be as pure and clean as the snow and ice,” the report paraphrased him as saying.

Xi made no direct mention of either corruption scandal.

Corruption in international sports is in focus due to U.S. and Swiss probes into soccer’s world governing body FIFA, the worst crisis in its 112-year history, while doping scandals have hit tennis and athletics.

Xi, who doubles as party and military chief, has pursued a relentless campaign against deep-rooted corruption since assuming power three years ago, vowing to go after powerful “tigers” as well as lowly “flies”.

While Beijing hosted the 2008 Summer Games to wide acclaim, its bid for the Winter Games had been dogged by concerns over a number of issues such as the city’s notorious smog problem, a lack of snow and China’s poor human rights record.

The report made no mention of any of those issues, although Xi said the Games should be both “green” and “open”.

Reporting by Winni Zhou and Ben Blanchard

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