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Beijing chosen to host 2022 Winter Olympics

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xi-jinpingAFP1

 

Kuala Lumpur: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Friday awarded the 2022 Winter Olympics to Beijing which hosted an “exceptional” Summer Games in 2008 and promises to do even better this time.

Beijing won 44 nods against Almaty’s 40 in the IOC voting with one abstention, becoming the first ever city to host both summer and winter Olympics, reports Xinhua.

In the 2022 Games voting, the secret ballot by 85 IOC members was conducted twice, first electronically and then on paper, after it was discovered that the electronic system had malfunctioned.

The Games will be divided between the capital and the city of Zhangjiakou — which is 118 miles north-west of Beijing and will host the snow events.

The Chinese capital and its co-bidder Zhangjiakou erupted with joy as IOC president Thomas Bach announced the winner at the 128th IOC session at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center.

Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated China’s passion for the Games in a video speech played during Beijing’s final presentation to the IOC members early in the afternoon.

“The 2022 Olympic Winter Games if held in China will boost exchanges and mutual understanding between the Chinese and other civilizations of the world, encourage more than 1.3 billion Chinese to engage in winter sports with interest and passion and give them yet another opportunity to help advance the Olympic Movement and promote the Olympic spirit,” Xi said.

“The Chinese government highly appreciates the Olympic Values and the IOC’s initiative of reform. We will honour all the commitments we have made and fully implement the Olympic Agenda 2020.”

A 12-member Beijing panel made a passionate presentation six hours earlier. Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong and former NBA star Yao Ming also weighed in.

The panel explained how the bid met the Olympic Agenda 2020 principles, promising athlete-centred, sustainable and economical Games, while giving much more: an opportunity to grow winter sports in the world’s most populous country, as well as a buzzing environment of a modern city and sporting action at the foot of the Great Wall.

Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan, bowed out with grace. Its message of a compact Games with atmosphere and a wintry setting was not quite enough to get it across the line.

Modern, quick and efficient transport is a key element of the Beijing 2022 bid. An integral part of the government’s Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Intercity Rail Master Plan, the construction of the Beijing-Zhangjiakou high-speed rail link began last year and will be fully operational by early 2019.

Yanqing is only 20 minutes from Beijing while Zhangjiakou is just 50 minutes away from the capital city.

Beijing 2022 will re-use 11 of 12 competition and non-competition facilities post-2008 including four iconic venues — Bird’s Nest National Stadium, Water Cube National Aquatics Center, Wukesong MasterCard Center and the China National Convention Center (CNCC).

Air quality and snow conditions are regarded as two of the major challenges for Beijing, but the bid officials have given an answer and solution to all the concerns.

In an effort to tackle air pollution, Beijing upgraded its coal-fired heating system in urban areas to natural gas heating system and closed down heavy-polluted plants. Neighbouring city Tianjin and provinces including Hebei adopted similar measures.

Lack of natural snow was considered as a disadvantage for the 2022 host. But the climate conditions in Zhangjiakou’s Chongli county, where cross country, freestyle and other skiing events will be held, won’t be a concern.

“In last snow season in the Chongli resort, the snowfall is 70 centimetres, so that’s enough for Winter Olympics Games,” said Zhangjiakou Mayor Hou Liang.

(IANS)

 

Next Story

High-Speed Railways, Thailand to Sign Pact with China

“Beijing claims it is committed to working with other countries to foster environment-friendly and sound development, but the practice so far has raised some serious concerns,” said Yaqui Wang, HRW's China researcher.

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Thai officials gather near a model of a high-speed rail during the ground-breaking ceremony of the Bangkok-Nong Khai railway project, in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, Dec. 21, 2017. RFA

Thailand, China and Laos will sign a memorandum of cooperation on a new bridge for a railway across the Mekong River during Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha’s Beijing visit this week, a Thai foreign ministry official said Tuesday.

The bridge would link Thailand’s northeastern Nong Khai province with the Laotian capital Vientiane, Thai officials told BenarNews, in what analysts believe will reinforce China’s ambitions to build a high-speed railway network in Southeast Asia, stretching through Malaysia and feeding into Singapore.

Prayuth, who is scheduled to be in the Chinese capital on April 26-27, is expected to sign the trilateral pact on the sidelines of a conference of world leaders on China’s massive One Belt, One Road (OBOR) infrastructure initiative, Busadee Santipitaks, spokeswoman for the ministry of foreign affairs, told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

“Thailand, Laos PDR and China will sign a three-nation memorandum of cooperation to build a bridge for a high-speed railway at Thai-Lao border,” Busadee said.

Thai officials did not respond to BenarNews emails requesting more details on the memorandum.

China, which aims to increase its footprint in Southeast Asia through OBOR, has managed to push ahead with its strategy to build a trans-Asian railway network.

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The second phase linking Nakhon Ratchasima to Laos is awaiting approval, officials told BenarNews. Pixabay

Last month, Laotian officials announced that a 414-km (257-mile) high-speed railway linking Vientiane with Kunming city, capital of China’s southwestern province of Yunnan, was almost half-complete and on track to be in service by December 2021. Construction for that project began four years ago.

Under China’s planned 3,000-km (1,875-mile) pan-Asian railway network, Chinese rail lines will extend farther south – all the way to the tip of the Malay Peninsula, linking Beijing to Singapore, one of Washington’s closest allies in the region and a strategic gateway to the Strait of Malacca.

China’s OBOR initiative has drawn criticism, including from Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad, who told reporters last month that the Philippines should be wary of Beijing’s “debt-trap diplomacy” that includes extending excessive credit with the alleged intention of extracting economic or political concessions from the debtor country.

Economists contend that the initiative forces emerging economies to take on unsustainable levels of debt to fund Beijing-backed projects, highlighting such concerns after a Chinese state-owned company took over the majority stake in Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port after Colombo struggled to repay its loans from China.

Thailand officially kicked off its high-speed railway project in December 2017 when Prayuth and Chinese officials led a ground-breaking ceremony for a 3.5-km (2-mile) segment of the rail in the northeast province of Nakhon Ratchasima.

The junta-led government under Prayuth has approved a 179-billion baht (U.S. $5.8 billion) budget for the first phase of the 253-km (158-mile) railway linking Nakhon Ratchasima with Bangkok.

The second phase linking Nakhon Ratchasima to Laos is awaiting approval, officials told BenarNews.

OBOR, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature policy, is an estimated U.S. $1 trillion-plus initiative that stretches across 70 countries. It aims to weave a network of railways, ports and bridges, linking China with Africa, Europe and Southeast Asia.

Prayuth’s Beijing visit would include a roundtable meeting with leaders of 38 countries during which he is expected to express the commitment of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to support China’s OBOR projects, Thai government spokesman Lt. Gen. Weerachon Sukhonthapatipak told BenarNews.

“First, we stress Thailand’s role as the ASEAN chair in supporting and committing to China’s attempt to link sub-regions and regions,” he said.

Prayuth, as current chairman of the 10-member ASEAN, will meet Xi and other Chinese officials, including Prime Minister Li Kequiang and Deputy Prime Minister Han Zheng to discuss ways to bolster bilateral relationship and economic cooperation, Weerachon said.

Prayuth will be accompanied by his deputy, Somkid Jatusripitak, the minister of transport and the minister of foreign affairs, he said.

China has ranked as Thailand’s largest trading partner since 2012, buying about U.S. $30 billion of Thai products last year, according to the Thai Ministry of Commerce.

Respect human rights, HRW tells Beijing

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China, which aims to increase its footprint in Southeast Asia through OBOR, has managed to push ahead with its strategy to build a trans-Asian railway network. Pixabay

Meanwhile, in a statement issued on Sunday, New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged Beijing to ensure that the OBOR initiative would be respectful of the human rights of people living in areas near the infrastructure projects.

Under OBOR, Beijing should set out requirements to enable consultation with groups of people potentially affected by proposed projects, ensuring that affected communities can openly express their views without fear of reprisal, HRW said in a statement.

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“Beijing claims it is committed to working with other countries to foster environment-friendly and sound development, but the practice so far has raised some serious concerns,” said Yaqui Wang, HRW’s China researcher.

“Criticisms of some Belt and Road projects – such as lack of transparency, disregard of community concerns, and threats of environmental degradation – suggest a superficial commitment,” Wang said. (RFA)