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Olympics bid fuels drive for clean air

Updated: 2014-10-31 07:43
By Zheng Jinran (China Daily)

For Nick Ward, a snow-boarding enthusiast from the United States who lives in Beijing, the only issue holding back his skiing passion in the Chinese capital is the heavy haze that sometimes shrouds North China.

"I've never seen the smog back home (in New Hampshire, a northeastern state of the US). It happens now and then here even in winter, and it's really an obstacle for outdoor sports," said Ward, who has been in Beijing for two years.

The severe air pollution in Beijing, especially in autumn and winter, has been a headache for outdoor exercisers and sporting event operators in recent years. However, Beijing's joint bid with Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games has offered a chance to reduce the pollution through cooperative efforts.

"The bidding and hosting of the Winter Olympics require good air quality and environment, so it can motivate us (the governments) to take tougher measures to upgrade the economic structure, thus cutting the emission of air pollutants," said Wang Hui, head of the publicity department of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games Bid Committee.

Hebei has witnessed frequent heavy smog since 2013, with seven of its cities listed in the top 10 worst-polluting major cities, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said.

In Beijing, about 30,000 runners from home and abroad participated in the marathon on Oct 19, breathing the haze on their long journey.

"We have felt the urgency of controlling the air pollution to guarantee our residents clean air," Wang said. "The joint efforts between Beijing and its neighbors are quite important."

Zhangjiakou, northwest of Beijing, always has better air quality because it is located upwind.

"But the city will take efforts to keep the air quality good for the bidding, and will cooperate with Beijing on the joint control of air pollution," Zhangjiakou bidding office director Zhang Chunsheng said.

Zhang said the good air quality in Zhangjiakou has been an attraction for Beijing residents hiking in summer and skiing in winter. It's the city with the best air quality of the 37 major northern areas in 2013, the ministry said.

Echoing the authority's determination on improving air quality, many residents in Zhangjiakou shared their confidence.

"I think the governments can present a wonderful environment to the participants and the world if we get the chance of hosting the Winter Olympics," said Yan Xiufang, a 65-year-old resident of Zhangjiakou, adding that her community has organized activities to promote a green lifestyle.

Sun Xiaochen contributed to the story.


Using existing venues built for Beijing Olympics

The existing skating facilities and venues in Beijing have passed the inspections from some international sports organizations, including those of skating, ice hockey and curling.

Only one new venue will be built in downtown Beijing for the Winter Olympics. The facilities in Chongli county of Zhangjiakou can be used and reformed as well to host the skiing events.

"We can host Winter Games in a sustainable way with the use of existing venues, "Wang Hui said.

Oslo's withdrawal of its bid will not affect Beijing

The joint bid is a careful decision based on public needs of winter sports, the advantages of various venues and rich experiences in hosting events, and a reflection of the hopes of the people and the country. Thus other countries dropping their bids will not affect Beijing.

"We have the confidence in becoming the most suitable host for the 2022 Winter Olympics, so we will further our preparations as planned," Wang Hui said.

Joint bid won't increase financial burden

The bid on the Winter Olympics will not become a burden for the government and the people because it will insist on a frugal and sustainable style.

The central government paid 10 percent of the costs for hosting the 2008 Olympic Games, with the majority coming from commercial benefits.

The surplus after the event has supported public campaigns on sports.

"The host of the Winter Olympics will not increase spending, since there will be some allocation from the International Olympic Committee and commercial funds from business partners and sponsors can cover the basic expenses," Wang Hui said.

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