International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach said on Thursday the Beijing Games due to start tomorrow would “change the scale of winter sports forever”.
Bach said the Olympics would spur a winter sports boom in China, a country not known for its mass participation in skiing or other winter pursuits.
On the eve of the opening ceremony in the capital, Bach told an IOC meeting: “China has already made history by passing the goal of engaging 300 million Chinese people in sport on snow and ice.”
“Thousands of schools are teaching winter sports and the Olympic values,” he said. “Today we can say: China is a winter sport country.”
The IOC has faced criticism from environmentalists for taking the Winter Games to China with the alpine skiing venue in Yanqing, an area north of the capital that often suffers drought, attracting particular scrutiny.
The Beijing Games, the second Olympics to be held during the coronavirus pandemic, are taking place in a strictly policed “bubble” to cut off teams, the media and the Chinese workforce looking after them from the outside world.
“China will wholeheartedly present a simple, safe and exciting Olympic Games to the world,” Bach said. “The world is expectant of China and China is ready. ”
- AFP, with additional editing by George Russell