China approves budget for 2022 Winter Olympics rail link

BEIJING (AP) — China has approved the budget for a 58.41 billion yuan ($9.22 billion) high-speed rail project connecting Beijing to the outdoor venues for the 2022 Winter Olympics, a crucial piece of infrastructure for staging the games.

State media reports said construction on the 174 kilometer (108-mile) line to Zhangjiakou in neighboring Hebei province will last 4 ½ years.

The cost of the rail line had not been included in the games’ approximately $3 billion budget because Chinese authorities said it would be built anyway as part of a national high-speed network.

Beijing’s lack of high mountains nearby required the locating of the outdoor events in Yangqing and Zhangjiakou, 60 and 140 kilometers (40 and 90 miles) outside the city. Indoor events will use venues in Beijing’s city center, most of them left over from the 2008 Summer Olympics.

Beijing is the only city to have won bids for both the Summer and Winter Olympics, basing its appeal on that experience, financial strength and the possibility of expanding interest in winter sports among the 300 million Chinese living in the country’s north.

While Beijing has retained its Olympic operational knowledge and many of its experienced organizers, the IOC sent its own experts to Beijing this week to walk staff through aspects of its “Olympic Agenda 2020" program for staging the games.

Olympic Games Executive Director Christophe Dubi led a seminar Tuesday and Wednesday for about 350 staff members.

IOC President Thomas Bach addressed the group by video link, saying: “This meeting is the first step on our seven-year journey together to deliver brilliant Olympic Winter Games in 2022 for Beijing, for China, and for the world.”