Beijing- The International Olympic Committee (IOC) evaluation commission chairman Alexander Zhukov said on Saturday that Beijing could host a successful 2022 Winter Games.
He said this in the course of its five-day inspection at which he declared the effort of the Chinese as: “incredible, informative and productive’’.
“Our visit confirms that Beijing is capable of hosting a successful Olympics event,” the IOC chief inspector said.
“The Olympic spirit that Beijing has shown in 2008 is alive and strong as ever,’’ Zhukov said as the bidding process between Beijing and the other bidder Almaty, Kazakhstan, entered its final phase.
The IOC will elect the host city at its session in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on July 31. Its inspectors visited Almaty last month.
Beijing presented a clear concept and good use of existing venues, Zhukov said at the concluding press conference, while discussions with the 19-member commission were `sincere and cordial.’
The Chinese capital city plans to recycle venues from the 2008 summer Games to comply with the new IOC Agenda 2020 of keeping costs low by using more existing or temporary venues.
Beijing, bidding to become the first city to host summer and winter Games, plans a budget of around 4 billion dollars, a fraction of the estimated 50 billion dollars spent by Russia on the 2014 Sochi Games.
Beijing 2022 would also coincide with the Chinese New Year festival and school holidays, to ensure full stadia.
As Oslo, Stockholm, Munich and Krakow have all previously withdrawn their bids amid financial concerns, Beijing appeared to emerge the comfortable frontrunner.
While Almaty boasts scenic mountain ranges with copious natural snowfall, Beijing’s Zhangjiakou ski area which hopes to host the Nordic events, freestyle skiing, snowboarding and biathlon, averages 21 centimetres of accumulated snowfall annually.
This did not deter Zhukov who named the out-of-town venue was “cold enough’’ and it “would be feasible to produce the necessary amount of snow.’’
Beijing’s government has begun building a high-speed rail link to reduce the current five-hour travel time from downtown to the mountain ski venue to 50 minutes.
Although air quality in the rural suburb about 200 kilometers north of the city is reportedly not a concern, the city centre’s PM2.5 air quality reading topped 150 during all five days of the inspection – six times the World Health Organisation safety level.
“The government recognises that air quality is still a problem,’’ Zhukov said on Saturday, noting that if Beijing won the bid, organisers have pledged to redouble their efforts.
The new IOC agenda of president Thomas Bach also includes a bigger emphasis on human rights but groups this week warned that giving the 2022 Winter Olympics to Beijing risked “making the same mistake twice’’.
“The current situation of human rights in 2013 is even worse than it was in 2008,’’ Maya Wang, a China researcher at Human Rights Watch in Hong Kong, told dpa via e-mail.
“The Games spurred multiple human rights abuses, including blocking access to and censoring the Internet, abuse of migrant construction workers, forced evictions and silencing of civil society activists.’’
A group of 175 Tibetan independence groups last week submitted a report to the IOC urging it to reject Beijing’s bid on the basis of its human rights record, referring to an “intense period of repression in Tibet’’ after 2008 protests that turned into riots left at least 21 people dead, according to police.
The IOC has not released details on how it will enforce human rights clauses, also a major factor in Sochi in connection with Russia’s anti-gay law, in new contracts with host cities or implement its new agenda.
“The Games themselves should be open to all, free of discrimination, and that applies to spectators, officials, media, and, of course, athletes,’’ IOC spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau told dpa.
“This has been upheld at all editions of the Olympic Games, including most recently at Sochi 2014. We believe it will continue to be the case and will not speculate further on this matter.’’
Moreau’s comment highlighted precisely the problems the IOC faces, Sophie Richardson, China director at Human Rights Watch, told dpa last week.
“First, it’s set out far higher standards for itself with respect to some basic human rights and now has to uphold them in places where abuses of precisely those rights are endemic,’’ she said.
“If the IOC isn’t satisfied with China’s compliance with respect to the human rights standards set out, it should take the Games elsewhere – and if the IOC is satisfied with China’s compliance, we will be extremely interested to hear how and why that is the case.’’ (dpa/NAN)