Final plan for Beijing’s 2022 Olympics delayed while China’s economy is hard hit

The government has laid out a first-phase plan to host the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, which was set to be announced at the China Sports and Olympic Bureau (CSOB) meeting in Beijing on Friday.

Due to the cost of building venues and transportation, the CSOB will soon be looking to use charter flights and to fly key figures and corporations to Beijing in the weeks leading up to the 2022 Games to avoid a repeat of the Gulf games in Abu Dhabi.

The still-unnamed CSOB recommendation, which will need to be approved by China’s State Council, will call for the 22 temporary venues to be introduced before the 2022 Games in Beijing instead of after, at a total cost of approximately 10 billion yuan, or $1.6 billion.

The recommendation to contract out the transportation operations will be included as an “additional detail” and will likely be more costly.

The CSOB will also make recommendations to develop a specific “high speed rail and tunnel” system to improve travel between the sites of venues and traffic around the city, with the transit network to be used for 10 hours daily during both the Games and Paralympics.

Those measures are expected to cost around 20 billion yuan.

However, this is still not enough to address the initial and serious financial obstacles facing the IOC regarding the 2022 Games in Beijing.

This is because what the CSOB has presented thus far is the minimum option the IOC is willing to accept to avoid a potential repeat of the Gulf Winter Games, which IOC President Thomas Bach said took a special focus on securing a lucrative overseas TV contract.

Here is what can be done in order to increase the number of options Beijing has to host the 2022 Winter Games, especially during the financial crunch that might occur during the recession and layoff of workers when the planned airport expansion construction began to slow down.

The Asia coast of China is a major player in the economies of the world, especially when it comes to sport. As of now, China has a clear and direct Olympic footprint that is currently serving the country well for hosting a Winter Games: Twenty-one cities with an Olympic history, including Zhangjiakou and Jinan have submitted bids to host the 2022 Games. Those bids have remained under state scrutiny and supervision.

Furthermore, China hosted three back-to-back Summer Games: 1980, 1992 and 2008. That is an important factor for Beijing’s bid as it has a well-established infrastructure already set for the 2022 Games. That infrastructure is being developed at an astonishing pace and is the result of the city’s economic boom of the past few decades.

If Beijing can secure an Olympics in 2022, the plans for the summer, as well as winter, Games would be changed significantly. The bid team needs at least five years to prepare for these international events and will need to implement the latest planning and construction standards.

Beyond that, the reality of the economy of China, and especially the slowing economy in China, will be discussed by the IOC Board in order to remove any skeletons of a potential financial shortfall that could occur in 2022 and could become increasingly evident in the years to come.

Currently, hosting the 2022 Olympics in China will be a crucial decision. However, after the recent failed events in Abu Dhabi and Qatar, everyone in the Chinese government will likely know exactly where the Chinese government stands when it comes to hosting international sporting events.

If the Chinese government shows the leadership that it can host successful and profitable sporting events, the country’s economy can grow past a certain point, facilitating economic development for years to come. At that point, the country would need to have transformed its capabilities at hosting large international events to fully capitalize on a prosperous Chinese economy.

In other words, using the current World Cup preparations as a cautionary tale, Chinese leaders may realize the importance of mounting an Olympics at the highest levels of the country’s leadership, unlike in the past. The COSOB meeting in Beijing on Friday will provide the IOC with more information on the Chinese government’s interest in hosting the 2022 Winter Games.

This commentary has been prepared in collaboration with the Sarofim Foundation.

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