Nation 'a strong Games candidate'
Updated: 2013-11-20 00:56
By Lei Lei (China Daily)
But race to be 2022 host is not easy: IOC president
China is "a very strong candidate" to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach told China Daily before meeting President Xi Jinping on Tuesday afternoon.
"China is known worldwide as a reliable organizer. We all still remember the brilliant Olympic Games in 2008 in Beijing. So I think China will have a good chance, but it's not an easy race."
When he met Bach later in the day, Xi stressed China's willingness to host the Winter Olympics.
Early this month, Beijing and neighboring Zhangjiakou in Hebei province announced a joint bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. They are competing with Stockholm (Sweden), Oslo (Norway), Lviv (Ukraine), Almaty (Kazakhstan) and a joint bid from Krakow (Poland) and Jasna (Slovakia).
Bach, a German who took over as IOC chief in September, has visited Nanjing, host city for the 2014 Youth Olympic Games, and Beijing in the past two days on his first visit to China in his current capacity.
Xi told Bach during their meeting that China hopes to use the bidding opportunity to help promote the development of the Olympic movement and winter sports.
China will try to improve the health of its people and develop sports among the public as well as elite athletes, Xi said.
After the meeting, Bach presented Xi with the Olympic Order in Gold, the Olympic movement's highest award.
For the 2022 Winter Games, Beijing is bidding to host events staged on ice, while Zhangjiakou, about 200 km northwest of the capital, is bidding to host the snow events.
An intercity railway has been planned and when it is operational it will take only about 40 minutes to travel between the two cities. Construction is expected to start at the end of this year.
China's bid for the Winter Olympics offers a new approach to the Winter Games, Bach said.
"With this bid, the people of Beijing, a metropolitan area, would have great access to winter sports. They would be motivated to practice winter sports all over the region and all over China," he said.
"This is a huge opportunity for the people in Beijing and for the whole area."
Compared with the achievements of Chinese athletes at the Summer Olympics, the country is not so good at winter sports.
Yang Yang became China's first Winter Olympic champion, winning the gold medal in the women's 500m short track speed skating at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in the United States.
Since then, China has progressed in winter sports, particularly in speed skating, figure skating, freestyle aerial skiing and women's curling.
Bach believes that China will be among the leading winter sports countries in the future.
Yang echoed Bach's view, saying: "Whether we win or lose, it's a good opportunity for China to develop its winter sports.
"I think the bid is a very good first step. We can improve ourselves in the process and the world will know more about us."
China bid to stage the 2010 Winter Olympics in Harbin, the capital of Heilongjiang province, but failed to make the shortlist, with the Games going to the Canadian city of Vancouver.
This time, the bid has raised public concern over the heavy smog that has blanketed Beijing and nearby areas frequently this year.
But Bach remains upbeat about China's role on the global sports stage.
"First of all, you have very successful lead athletes if you look at the results Chinese athletes have achieved this year," he said.
"Second, China is a great organizer of international sports events, and we are also seeing many international events happening in China. We are very happy to have a bid from China for the Winter Games."