The National Speed Skating Oval in downtown Beijing was among 12 competition venues for the 2022 Winter Olympics completed last year. Ice-making trials will begin there later this month. [Photo/Xinhua]
IOC's Samaranch praises preparatory work in face of pandemic challenges
Juan Antonio Samaranch, the chairman of the International Olympic Committee's Coordination Commission for Beijing 2022, has lavished praise on preparations for the Winter Games amid last year's pandemic disruption.
"Acknowledging the difficult experience this year, the progress being made by Beijing 2022 has been truly remarkable," Samaranch told Xinhua on New Year's Eve.
"The preparations for the Games are going extremely well despite all the challenges in the test event programs due to COVID-19-related restrictions."
With the pandemic wiping out many scheduled test events from the global sporting calendar, Beijing 2022 organizers are forging ahead with plans for an adapted program.
There have also been numerous milestones over the past 12 months, with Samaranch making special mention of activities that were staged online via video link, including the launch of a global competition for the medal, torch and apparel designs, the IOC broadcasters' meeting, and a world media briefing.
In addition, organizers have received around a million applications for voluntary work－about a year after the global recruitment drive was launched.
With 12 competition venues completed and plans for the 'One Year to Go' ceremonies well underway," activities are developing and excitement is really beginning to build up," added Samaranch.
Samaranch reckons Beijing 2022 will inspire a whole generation of winter sports enthusiasts, and build an environmentally friendly and sustainable Games.
"Using 100 percent clean energy for the Games venues－for example, natural carbon dioxide as a refrigerant for the ice-making situations is an Olympic first－these are some of the steps to make these Games extremely green, in fact the greenest."
Samaranch also believes the Games will offer a chance to boost tourism and create more jobs in the region, as well as promoting Olympic education nationwide with more schools launching winter programs than ever before.
"With this, China is delivering on its bid promises despite challenges and obstacles," said Samaranch.
However, he added: "There will be challenges ahead. The COVID-19 countermeasures working group is already very much in place. We are fully prepared for all eventualities."
Samaranch believes that achieving successful Winter Games requires the experience and expertise of a strong local organizing committee, the support of the government and close collaboration with the Olympic and Paralympic Movements and the rest of the stakeholders.
"This will be vital for delivering outstanding Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing 2022," he said.
Wishing everyone a happy year in 2021, Samaranch also expressed his appreciation to Xinhua, which was recognized as the IOC's international news agency in 2019. He praised the Chinese outlet's work in 2020 in promoting Olympic values and Beijing 2022 all over the world.
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