IOC: Beijing makes 'fast start' in preparing for 2022 Games
BEIJING (AP) The International Olympic Committee praised Chinese organizers on Wednesday for getting ''off to a fast start'' in Beijing's preparations for the 2022 Winter Games.
The IOC's coordination commission concluded a three-day inspection that included visits to the snow sports venues outside the capital.
It was the panel's first full visit to Beijing since the city was awarded the games last year, defeating Almaty, Kazakhstan, in the IOC vote. Beijing, which hosted the 2008 Olympics, will be the first city to host both a summer and winter games.
The panel visited the snow sports venues in Zhangjiakou and Yanqing, as well as the indoor ice arenas in Beijing. China plans to build a high-speed rail line linking the city to the mountain clusters.
''We are pleased with what we have learned,'' IOC vice president Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr. said. ''Beijing 2022 is off to a fast start. Initial preparations are well on track.''
Samaranch stepped in for commission chairman Alexander Zhukov of Russia, who returned to Moscow this week for meetings with President Vladimir Putin.
Putin said Zhukov will be stepping down as head of the Russian Olympic Committee to concentrate on his work in parliament. Once Zhukov leaves that post, he would relinquish his spot on the IOC and chairmanship of the Beijing panel.
Samaranch said if Zhukov's departure is confirmed, IOC President Thomas Bach ''will make the right decisions and an immediate decision'' to appoint a new head of the coordination commission.
Christophe Dubi, the IOC's executive director of the Olympic Games, said no decision has been made on a possible relocation of the proposed sliding center in Yanqing for bobsled, luge and skeleton.
Beijing, not known for winter sports, could rely heavily on man-made snow for the ski and snowboard events.
Samaranch said visits to the mountain venues showed that China ''remains fully committed to the legacy goal of developing world-class winter sports facilities'' in a region of 300 million people.