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Top government official appointed to lead Beijing 2022

Prominent Chinese politician Guo Jinlong has been appointed president of Beijing’s organising committee for the 2022 winter Olympic and Paralympic Games as officials today (Tuesday) again downplayed concerns over air pollution in the city.

The organising committee was launched today nearly five months after securing hosting rights to the 2022 Games. 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.

Guo (pictured) is Beijing's Chinese Communist Party (CCP) secretary. He also served as Mayor of Beijing from January 2008 to July 2012 and was executive chairman of the city’s 2008 summer Olympic organising committee.

Guo said today that Beijing 2022 will study the Host City Contract (HCC) and Olympic Agenda 2020 reforms plan before it maps out a detailed agenda. “We will pore over the HCC and the Olympic Agenda 2020, and review our bid commitments before we work out the roadmap and timetable,” Guo said, according to state news agency Xinhua. “We shall ensure every task is accomplished.”

China last month gave its approval for the development of a Y58.4bn (€8.5bn/$9.2bn) high-speed rail line that will connect the capital of Beijing to all outdoor venues that will be used during the city’s hosting of the 2022 Games.

Work on the 174km rail line to Zhangjiakou in the Hebei province will reportedly take approximately four-and-a-half years to complete. The cost of the line has not been included in the budget for the Games as authorities in China said it would have been built anyway to form part of a national network.

With Beijing having a lack of high mountains, organisers have had to move Olympic outdoor events to Yangqing and Zhangjiakou, which are located 60km and 140km way from Beijing, respectively. Indoor events will be staged at various venues in the capital’s city centre, some of which were also used during the 2008 Games in Beijing.

Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli attended today’s launch and said the Games would be utilised as “an important move to push for the coordinated development” of Beijing and neighbouring cities. Xinhua said China is seeking to create a new economic belt and environmentally-friendly zone, incorporating the surrounding Hebei Province, and Tianjin, a port city to the capital's southeast.

Chinese Olympic Committee president Liu Peng, who is also serving as executive president of Beijing 2022, said the development of the country’s prowess in winter sports is also a key goal. “We will promote winter sports and develop winter sports industry in a bid to attract 300 million people to ice and snow,” he said. “In terms of competition, we are going to mobilise resources all over the nation to achieve excellent results.”

Beijing experienced its first ‘red alert’ over air pollution last week as smog enveloped the Chinese capital. The alert is triggered when the government believes air quality will exceed a level of 200 on an air quality index that measures various pollutants for at least three days. It forced vehicles off the road, while heavy vehicle usage was banned and classes were cancelled in the city.

In March, Beijing 2022 said the government was spending $7.6bn (€7.01bn) on efforts to tackle smog. Zhang today promised authorities would take “realistic action” to gradually reduce levels of hazardous particle pollution. “This is the greatest hope of regular people,” Zhang added, according to the Reuters news agency.