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China eyes off 2018 Winter Olympics -

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China eyes off 2018 Winter Olympics

Broadcast: 16/04/2009

Reporter: Tom Iggulden

China is hoping to follow up its hosting of the Summer Olympic Games by hosting the Winter Olympics
in 2018, investing hundreds of millions of dollars to transform its winter sporting facilities
ahead of a likely bid for the games, as more and more Chinese take to snow sports.

Transcript

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Still basking in the triumph of the Beijing summer games, China's now
hoping to follow up by hosting the Winter Olympics in 2018.

It's investing hundreds of millions of dollars to transform its winter sporting facilities ahead of
a likely bid for the Games as more and more Chinese take to snow sports. Tom Iggulden reports from
northern China.

TOM IGGULDEN: As a force in world skiing, China ranks somewhere near Australia - it's a bit of a
joke.

It's not that Chinese skiers suffer a lack of mountains, cold weather or that "have a go" attitude.

It's more that until relatively recently, few Chinese had time or money to muck around in the snow
trying to perfect their parallel turns - or any other turns for that matter.

China's economic miracle has put the sport in reach of ever growing numbers of beginner skiers. The
16 small resorts around Beijing alone will see more than a million visits this winter.

As China's skiing population grows, so are its ski resorts.

When Beijing's weekend warriors want to leave the beginner slopes behind to try something a bit
more challenging, they come here to Yabuli Mountain in China's deep north.

It's also the resort on which China is pinning its hopes for the chance to host another Olympic
Games.

ZHANG XIANGLIAN, HARBIN MAYOR (translation): We have the whole of the Chinese people behind us, who
have a special connection with the Olympics, and we have the Chinese Government which has already
made a great contribution to the Olympics. Sooner or later we'll get the Games here.

TOM IGGULDEN: And this is the city that could be hosting it: Harbin in China's northernmost
province Heilongjiang.

It's not exactly an international skiing hot spot right now, but there are grand visions to turn
this place into somewhere that could compete with Aspin, St Moritz or Queenstown.

ZHANG XIANGLIAN (translation): I believe that if Harbin is given the opportunity to host the Winter
Olympics, our facilities for snow and ice sports will quickly develop to an international standard
until it gets to the top list of the cities you just named.

TOM IGGULDEN: It all sounds like idle boasting until you come to this place, China's first luxury
ski resort.

One of the brains behind the project is former chief executive of Australia's Mount Hotham resort,
Justin Downes.

JUSTIN DOWNES, MELCO CHINA RESORTS: Yeah, this is pretty special. I mean, after a hard day on the
slopes, you know, in the fresh powder, coming in here, having a steam and a sauna, a little bit of
a massage, dip in the pool. Upstairs for a power nap and then off for a great night of partying in
the bar and the restaurants.

TOM IGGULDEN: It feels more like we're in Europe than China.

JUSTIN DOWNES: Hey, well, that's the objective, and we just want to build something that has never
been done before in China.

TOM IGGULDEN: Lateline visited the resort just days before it was due to open. Most of the money
for it comes from the gambling enclave of Macau that recently overtook Las Vegas as the world's
biggest gaming city. But gambling is down 30 per cent over the last year.

It's probably not a great time financially speaking to be on the cusp of opening a luxury resort.

JUSTIN DOWNES: From a visitation standpoint we think we're pretty safe. I mean, China's economy,
while it is experiencing some downturns, it's still rather - you know, it's still doing well. The
skiing population is not large, and generally, as you may have seen in Beijing, the resorts there
are still doing very well.

TOM IGGULDEN: Even if the financial downturn doesn't but the brakes on the development of Yabuli,
there are other hurdles to harbour Harbin hosting the Olympics.

Harbin is an industrial city and the Mayor is already making an effort to assuage concerns about
pollution that plagued the early stages of the Beijing Games.

ZHANG XIANGLIAN (translation): Our city's environment is more beautiful and pleasant. Look at our
air quality; in 2008 the number of good air days reached 308, which mean that 84 per cent of all
days in a year are good air quality days.

TOM IGGULDEN: Pollution wasn't the only problem with the Beijing Games. Protests were quashed,
dissidents were detained and foreign news crews were hassled for attempting to cover pro-Tibet
demonstrations, despite promises leading up to the Games that China would allow greater political
freedom.

The perception in the west, that perhaps some of those promises were broken, do you think that that
will that have an effect on Harbin's hope to become a host city for the Winter Games?

As the Mayor began to answer our question, off camera, propaganda officials tried to shut the
interview down.

OFFICIAL: It's not actually in the outline of the interview.

TOM IGGULDEN: The Mayor eventually agreed to answer the question anyway.

ZHANG XIANGLIAN (translation): I don't know why the international community would say that. We
think we're an honest government that sticks to our promises. This is also our Chinese nation's
tradition. If there is an imperfection, it would never be up to the level of breaking promises. At
least for my city, we are transparent.

TOM IGGULDEN: He may have to get used to still more questions should Harbin's Games bid go ahead.

Tom Iggulden, north-east China for Lateline.