Organizers of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games say they are on track to complete all competition venues by year-end and have teams in place for test events, despite the devastating impact of the novel coronavirus outbreak that originated in the country late last year.
The pledge was made by Beijing Vice Mayor Zhang Jiandong to participants in last week's World Broadcaster Meeting for the games that was relocated to Madrid because of the outbreak. Zhang and other organizers participated online from committee headquarters in Beijing.
"We will try our best to push forward the preparations for Beijing 2022 amid the fight against the virus and make sure the preparations are done in time and up to standard," Zhang, who is also executive vice president of Beijing 2022, was quoted as saying in a news release from the Beijing committee.
Questions have arisen about whether this year's Tokyo Olympic Games, set to open on July 24, can proceed, although Japan has taken extensive measures to curb the spread of the virus. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said at a news conference Saturday that Japan is at a critical juncture to determine whether the country can keep the outbreak under control ahead of the Tokyo Summer Olympics.
With new virus cases falling to around 500 or less daily, China has sought to slowly get its economy back on track by offering loans, tax breaks and other incentives. Strict travel restrictions remain, however, and a host of cultural and sports events have been cancelled, while school openings and the holding of the ceremonial legislature's annual session have been postponed indefinitely. The outbreak is expected to further slow an economy already growing at its lowest level in three decades.
China has recorded almost 80,000 cases of the virus that causes the disease COVID-19, by far the most of any country.
Beijing won the right to host the 2022 amid light competition, despite questions about a lack of natural snow, pollution and scarce water resources. That came largely on the back of its successful track record of hosting the 2008 Summer Games and its ability to reuse many of the venues from that earlier event, pushing down the cost of the games.
Organizers told participants last week that the Genting Snow Park in the Zhangjiakou competition zone, where the snowboard parallel giant slalom, snowboard slopestyle and snowboard halfpipe events will be held, is already in use, while the National Alpine Ski Center in the suburban Yanqing competition zone is ready for test events. Yanqing will also host the sliding events and Zhangjiakou, in the neighbouring province of Hebei, will host ski jumping and other outdoor events.
Indoor events such as speed skating, curling and hockey, are to be held in downtown Beijing.