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|Experience, infrastructure boost chance of Olympic bid
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Evaluation Commission arrived in Beijing on Sunday to determine whether China's bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games is successful.
Observers predicted promising prospects due to the potential host cities' prior experience and infrastructure.
The Evaluation Commission members began the visit that will last until March 29 to conduct a field inspection of 19 competition and non-competition venues and supporting facilities.
At the same time, they will assess the transportation systems and all other infrastructural elements in the three Games zones of Beijing, Yanqing county in the city's northwest and Zhangjiakou in Hebei Province, reported China Central Television on Sunday.
The IOC inspectors will be presented with plans for the joint bid by Beijing and Zhangjiakou for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, and will complete an evaluation report based on the inspection of the two bid cities#1# reported the Xinhua News Agency.
The 19-member IOC Evaluation Commission is made up of representatives of national and regional Olympic committees, athletes and experts. Representatives of the International Paralympic Committee are also in the group.
The report will be used as a key basis for the 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games Host City Election, which will be held on July 31 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Wang Hui, spokesperson and director of media and communications for the Beijing 2022 Bid Committee#2# said at a press briefing on Saturday that Beijing has taken the "toughest measures" to tackle pollution in preparation for the bid.
The Chinese government is proposing a budget of $4.7 billion to fight air pollution, following the announcement made earlier that Beijing authorities plan to bring down the readings of PM2.5 to 60 by the year of 2017.
Beijing's previous experience in holding high-profile international events and the existing stadiums used for the 2008 Summer Games may prove crucial, said observers.
"With Beijing's continental climate, there are concerns over the city's natural capacity to host winter sports events. But most events are indoors. Beijing will also benefit from its previous experience in hosting the 2008 Olympic Games," Yan Qiang#3# a sports commentator, told the Global Times.
Of the five venues in Beijing for the 2022 Winter Games, four of them would be converted from existing facilities built during the 2008 Games, including the National Aquatics Center, known as the "Water Cube#4#" and the National Indoor Stadium.
The newly planned speed skating stadium is scheduled to start construction in 2016.
Beijing and Kazakhstan's Almaty are the only two candidates left in the race. Previous candidates included Stockholm, which dropped its bid in January 2014 due to lack of political support. Others dropped out due to the expense.
A recent poll conducted by the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games Bid Committee shows that domestic support in Beijing for the bid is 91 percent.
For Zhangjiakou, the co-host city for most snow events and about 200 kilometers northwest of Beijing, the rate is 99.9 percent.
"The experience of hosting international sports events helps to advance the city's urban development, including improvements to its environmental and social infrastructure#5# which are essential for China as a developing country," Zhu Dajian, Director of Institute of Governance for Sustainability at Tongji University, told the Global Times.
Zhu also pointed out that it is essential to use the bid as an opportunity to improve people's livelihood so as to gain widespread support. But the government should also avoid repeating the same phenomenon of soaring property prices after the 2008 Games, he said.
"People's quality of life needs to be improved along with the infrastructure#6# such as sustainable measures to improve air quality," Zhu noted.
At the Saturday press briefing, Wang also said that hosting the 2022 Games will create job opportunities and industry advancement in Zhangjiakou, which is not so advanced economically.
Jin Canrong, a deputy dean of the School of International Studies at the Renmin University of China#7# said that bidding for and hosting the 2022 Winter Games would also benefit China's international reputation, as the country has become more confident in its capability following the 2008 Games.
"Besides GDP growth, the nation's management ability [in hosting major international events] is another key indicator in evaluating the country's progress towards modernization," Jin told the Global Times.
"[Hosting the Winter Games] will serve as an opportunity for China to participate and familiarize itself with rules and procedures in hosting international events, as well as a chance for the international community to understand China's latest developments#8#" he said.
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