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IOC hails Beijing 2022’s ‘fast start’

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said Beijing 2022 is off to a “fast start” in its preparations for the 2022 winter Olympic Games, adding that it is confident that China will provide access to an uncensored internet during the event.

The IOC’s Coordination Commission concluded its first visit today (Wednesday) and praised Beijing 2022’s adherence to the masterplan outlined during the candidature phase. “Beijing 2022’s vision of a creating a world-class winter sports centre in a region of 300 million people is becoming a reality,” Commission chair Alexander Zhukov said. “It is a formidable opportunity to have such excellent facilities for skiing and other snow sports so close to a major city.”

The Coordination Commission members visited the snow sports venue cluster in Zhangjiakou after earlier visits to venues for Alpine and Nordic skiing in Yanqing. Their three-day trip began with a tour of the ice sport venues in Beijing.

IOC vice-president Juan Antonio Samaranch substituted for Zhukov toward the end of the visit, with the Russian official returning home. Samaranch (pictured) said: “We are pleased with what we have learned. Beijing 2022 is off to a fast start. Initial preparations are well on track.”

Beijing will become the first city to host both the summer and winter Olympics after it edged out the rival claims of Almaty, Kazakhstan to land the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Games in July 2015. The Games concept is closely aligned with long-term development goals for Beijing and neighbouring Hebei Province. The Games, which will take advantage of a planned high-speed rail link between the city and the mountains, are designed to expand participation in winter sports and create a new ‘Sport, Culture and Tourism Belt’ in northern China.

Samaranch added: “Our site visits in Zhangjiakou and Yanqing confirmed that Beijing 2022 remains fully committed to the legacy goal of developing world-class winter sports facilities. Their success will accelerate growing participation in winter sports among the 300 million people in this region and throughout China.”

Meanwhile, Samaranch expressed his confidence that China’s notoriously strict control on internet access will be lifted for the Games. Foreign social media platforms like Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Facebook, as well as Google’s main search engine and Gmail service are all inaccessible in China without the use of specialised software.

When asked about free internet, Samaranch told the Reuters news agency: “It's guaranteed in the bid. All the experience that we've had with Beijing is that they've always delivered on their word. We are confident that will be the case.”

Zhang Jiandong, Beijing’s Deputy Mayor and vice-president of the organising committee, also pointed to the bid pledge for an open internet. He added: “During the 2022 winter Games we will comprehensively open access to the internet for all (internet) customers, including at the competition venues, where athletes stay, and other areas.”