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Despite long odds, Beijing bids for Winter Olympics

Updated: 2013-11-06 14:26
( Xinhua)

Despite long odds, Beijing bids for Winter Olympics

Women wear masks while waiting for bus during a smoggy day in Beijing, October 28, 2013. [Photo/Agencies]

BEIJING - Beijing announced its bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics on Tuesday, hoping to become the first city to stage the Winter Games after playing host to the Summer.

Beijing's chances could be affected by its infamous air pollution, but the Chinese capital can also start from here to make the air cleaner.

In a rare consensus among the public, media and officials, air pollution is seen as one of the top obstacles for Beijing to become the first ever Summer and Winter Olympic host.

Half of the 7,400 people polled by China's leading portal Sohu on Wednesday expressed concerns over Beijing's poor air quality.

"Beijing will have to make a promise in its bid book on how to effectively reduce air pollution," read an editorial carried by Beijing News newspaper on Wednesday.

A top local sports official considers the bid an opportunity to improve the environment.

"The government has already started to tackle the problem," said Li Yingchuan, head of the Beijing Sports Bureau. "I believe in 10 years the situation will be much better."

Besides pollution, Beijing's chances could be hurt by the fact that Pyeongchang of South Korea will host the 2018 Winter Games and Tokyo the 2020 Summer Olympics.

"There is a rotation rule, though unwritten, in the bid. Since Pyeongchang won the 2018 bid, it will be difficult for Beijing to win the 2020 right," Li said.

In the meantime, Beijing faces potential strong rivals Oslo, Norway; Munich, Germany; and a possible joint bid from Poland and Slovakia. Almaty of Kazakhstan had earlier entered the bid and Ukraine's Lviv officially joined the race hours after Beijing declared its candidacy.

Yang Yang, China's first winter Olympic champion and International Olympic Committee member, believes Beijing's road to the Winter Games could be long and tough.

"No one doubts Beijing's ability in organizing the Olympics. That's the advantage," said Yang.

"But to my understanding, few cities can succeed in their first bid," she continued.

"We will do our best and see what will happen," she added.

Pyeongchang succeeded after three tries and is "a model to follow", according to the sports official Li.

"I would say anything is possible. Even if Beijing loses this time, we will continue our efforts in the future," he said.

Wei Jizhong, former International Volleyball Federation chief, said the Winter Games would bring more than just helping with a clean environment.

"Win or lose, it pushes the country to move forward," he said.

Moreover, a successful bid will be great news for surrounding cities in Hebei province, especially Zhangjiakou, which has been proposed to stage snow sports as a co-host.

It was announced on Monday that an inter-city express railway is to be built between Beijing and Zhangjiakou.

Construction will start on the 174km line at the end of this year. It will take about 40 minutes to travel from Beijing to Zhangjiakou once the railway is in use.

There are more than 80 existing ski tracks in Chongli, a ski resort in Zhangjiakou, and the local government plans to raise the number to 228 by 2020, said Zhangjiakou Mayor Hou Liang.

"There will be very close cooperation between Beijing and Zhangjiakou. Clearly, this will benefit Zhangjiakou," said Zhao Hong, deputy head of Beijing Social Science Academy.

"A successful bid will create job opportunities and boost economy in Zhangjiakou," said Zhao Hong.