Reporting from Beijing, China – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Evaluation Commission kicked off a five-day visit to China Tuesday to re-explore Beijing and discover the capital’s bid for the Olympic Winter Games in 2022.
Beijing’s new plans for the Games focus on leveraging existing facilities left by the 2008 Summer Games, and on transforming Zhangjiakou – a mountain destination bid planners hope will become a popular winter destination. These goals, they say, will closely align with the IOC’s newly implemented Agenda 2020 – the set of reforms that were introduced last year that create a roadmap for the future of the Olympic movement.
“The success of the last Evaluation Commission visit in 2001 and the 2008 Olympic Games which followed are well known,” Alexander Zhukov, Chairman of the IOC Evaluation Commission, said during a speech at the opening ceremony.
“But some years have passed since the last visit. Not only has this city developed dramatically in that time but so too has the Olympic Movement.”
To reinforce the legacy pillar of the Games concept, Zhukov and his team were taken on a tour of the Beijing Olympic Park and venues they were familiar with from seven years ago. Ceremonies will again be held at the Beijing National Stadium “Bird’s Nest” where many still vividly remember 2008 drummers welcoming thousands of spectators.
The “Water Cube” – the main Olympic pool where Michael Phelps earned a record eight gold medals – could get a makeover and become an “Ice Cube” should Beijing’s bid be successful. The National Aquatics Centre, recently site of the APEC 2014 meeting, would be transformed into the curling venue for the Winter Games.
The IOC team also visited the National Indoor Stadium, planned site for Men’s Ice Hockey; Capital Indoor Stadium where short track and figure skating would be staged; Wukesong Sports Centre for Women’s Ice Hockey and sites where a speed skating oval and Olympic Village would be built.
“Eleven of the twelve competition and non-competition venues to be used for the Games in the Beijing Zone are legacy venues from 2008, while all new venues already have well planned post-games uses,” Wu Jingmi, Deputy Secretary-General of the Beijing 2022 Bid Committee.
As per the usual IOC process all meetings will be held behind tightly closed doors, however on Tuesday the Evaluation Commission bent its own rules by allowing reporters and photographers the opportunity to watch the opening speeches made by Zhukov and Beijing 2020 representatives including Chinese Vice Premier Madam Liu Yandong.
As in Almaty in April, the meetings are designed to be constructive. The Kazakh bid made changes during their inspection that resulted in elimination of $550 million worth of costs.
“We have exchanged ideas very fully of questions asked by the Evaluation Commission,” Jiandong Zhang, Beijing Vice Mayor and Vice President of Beijing 2022 said.
“Be it the vision or the concept or the venue plans, they are all in line with the Olympic Agenda 2020 and the IOC Evaluation Commission have fully recognized our ideas,” Zhang continued when asked by GamesBids.com whether any plan changes had been discussed.
Officials stressed that Beijing 2022 will be athlete centred, sustainable and economical – three key components of the IOC’s Agenda 2020. Beijing says they can back that up with a strong Olympic legacy, modern infrastructure and proven reliability.
“For Beijing we have our own advantages because the basic situation in Beijing is we enjoy political stability, economic prosperity and social harmony which is a solid guarantee for the success of the Olympic Games,” Zhang explained, referencing Almaty.
The IOC will continue to review plans and visit venues around Beijing Wednesday. On Thursday the team will travel to Zhangjiakou to tour the snow venues. The visit wraps up on Saturday.