(ATR) Getting 300 million Chinese citizens closer to winter sports constitutes a “revolution” for sport and economic development says Thomas Bach.
Bach inspects Beijing 2022 venues in Zhangjiakou (IOC/Twitter)
Bach is touring Beijing 2022 and other winter sports venues in China as the IOC and International Paralympic Committee begin a project review for the next Winter Olympics.
According to an IOC spokesperson, Bach's visit includes stops in the northeast city of Harbin, and the three clusters of venues for the 2022 Games Zhangjiakou, Yanqing, and Beijing. Bach met with provincial governors, and Beijing municipal leadership as well.
Chinese President Xi Jinping also received Bach as part of the visit.
“The engagement of President Xi cannot be overvalued, first of all the importance of his plan and project to bring 300 million Chinese to winter sports is a revolution for Winter sports internationally,” Bach told local journalists after his visit to Zhangjiakou and Yanqing.
“If you compare this figure with the people who are doing Winter sports now, and if you add 250 to 300 million [people] this will be a revolution. It will be a revolution for Winter sports internationally and it will be a great contribution to the social development and health education systems of the economic development of China.”
Bach said that after President Xi Jinping visited Lausanne in 2017 the IOC told him “we are sure” that the 2022 Winter Olympics will be successful because of personal commitments from top leadership in China.
Commitments from political leadership throughout China reinforced that the 2022 Games are using Olympic Agenda 2020 to fit in with a long term development of China, Bach added.
However, human rights and environmental groups have criticized preparations for glossing over ongoing concerns in the country. Olympic organizers have said that they will not pressure Chinese authorities over concerns of the reported internment of citizens in Xinjiang province, as it is outside the scope of the Games
. The IOC recently created a human rights commission
that will work to strengthen commitments during Olympic preparations starting with the Paris 2024 Olympics.
Bach addressed the concerns of environmental devastation near Zhangjiakou and Yanqing through the use of artificial snow in areas where drought is reportedly regularly a concern
. He said that Hebei provincial authorities have committed to planting 360 million trees to reforest the province during and after Olympic preparations.
“This is why we see here another pillar of Olympic agenda because we have a clear legacy planning from the very beginning,” Bach said. “Whichever venue we were visiting here we could see what would be the use after the Olympic Games so that the Chinese people then can really enjoy Winter sports after and Winter sports can contribute to the social development of China.
“We see that all the schedules are respected so far, so it’s the Chinese way. We are really very sure [of] the completion of the work at the right time and a successful Games.”
Written by Aaron Bauer
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