Chinese political advisers cheered on Beijing's bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics on Friday, with one official saying a recent increase in sports injuries underlines the public's growing enthusiasm for winter sports.
The head of Beijing's Sports Medicine Hospital, Li Guoping, said he has seen more patients with winter sports injuries. A member of the main government advisory body, Li said that development "somehow reflects the growing popularity of winter sports in China."
Another government adviser, former NBA star Yao Ming, was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency that the outdoor nature of the Winter Olympics will make sports more accessible.
"The Beijing 2022 bid would make Chinese people understand more about sport, and as the Winter Olympics feature more outdoor events than the Summer Games, it will get more Chinese involved in sport," Yao told reporters on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in Beijing.
Spreading the popularity of winter sports in the world's most populous nation is a key pillar of Beijing's bid, along with its experience of hosting the 2008 Summer Games, strong government support and wealth of ready-built facilities. Beijing says its bid is in line with the IOC's goals for a more frugal, athlete-oriented games whose legacy will live on with robust sports programs and continuing use of venues.
In all, Beijing plans to spend $3.9 billion on infrastructure and operations, while Zhang said substantial private sector investment and sponsorships will allay further costs.
Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan, are the only contenders for the 2022 Games, with Beijing hoping to become the first city to host both the summer and winter games.
On March 24, IOC representatives begin four days of inspections of Beijing's hosting plans and three clusters of facilities, each with their own athletes' village and media center.
The full IOC will select the host city on July 31 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.