Mon, February 23, 2009

Chinese official: Universiade makes Harbin closer to Winter Olympics

2009-02-23 04:47:16 GMT2009-02-23 12:47:16 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

HARBIN, Northeast China, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- The on-going 24th World Winter Universiade is giving the host an experience of organizing world-class sports games and making it closer to bid for the hosting of a Winter Olympics in the future, said a senior Chinese sports official here on Monday.

"The Universiade is surely propitious to both the cultural and economic development as well as sports infrastructure construction, all these make Harbin closer to the Winter Olympic Games," said Xiao Tian, deputy director of the General Administration of Sports of China.

When China reaped its record of seven gold medals on Sunday from the Universiade, the first time such a comprehensive winter sports games in China, gossips widely go around that Harbin is considering to bid for the hosting of either 2018 or 2022 Winter Olympics.

"It would be a highly active and open-minded approach, and would surely give huge impetus to local economic development," said Xiao, "Harbin is stepping closer and closer to playing host to the Winter Olympics after it has held the National Winter Games, the Asian Winter Games and the World Winter Universiade."

For the Universiade, local provincial and municipal governments have invested some 3.1 billion yuan (some 430 million US dollars) in infrastructure, sports venues and training facilities.

"The Heilongjiang speed skating rink (in Harbin) is of the first class in the world with a constant temperature of 15 degrees centigrade, even rarely seen in North America and Europe," said Xiao, an expert in winter sports.

Among the investment, the majority sum were put in both Yabuli and Maoershan for the snow events, "and the tram rails at the Yabuli skiing resort, as well as accommodation facilities there, have been improved a lot in the past years in a hope to catch up with the best in the world," added Xiao.

However, the Chinese official keeps cool in his mind, saying that the Winter Olympics is far more important and world-wide than the National Games, the Asian Winter Games or the Winter Universiade.

"It's not equidistance among these games. Any city that has hosted the first three kinds of games cannot be justified that it is already capable of or ready for hosting a Winter Olympics," said Xiao.

"The most challenging task for China (to host Winter Olympics) is from the snow events, which are the main part of a Winter Olympics," said Xiao, "and the Alpine skiing has been and remains to be the mayhem, while the cross country, biathlon and even freestyle skiing can be considered as relatively easier to be held."

"To be fair, Harbin still has a long way to go as we even did not hold any single World Cup so far for Alpine skiing, and we did not have the facilities to host either luge or bobsleigh events."

Besides, although Beijing has successfully held the Olympics in 2008, "we are still in a distance away from other Olympic hosts, such as Athens and Sydney, in the professional running of the Games," said Xiao, "and for Harbin, it's the same case."

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