Beijing 2022 should use the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games to reduce substantial levels of emissions in the Hebei Province, the region’s Communist Party secretary Zhao Kezhi has claimed.
Zhangjiakou, located in Hebei and around 200 kilometres from the Chinese capital, is due to stage skiing and snowboarding events during the Games.
Both cities have had well-documented environmental issues with Beijing particularly susceptible to air pollution, while the seven smoggiest cities of 2015 were all in Hebei.
The Province is home to a high number of steel and coal industries, making it difficult to prevent enhanced emission levels, but Zhao hopes staging the Games in six years’ time will provide an environmental boost to the area.
Hebei plans to reduce coal consumption by 40 million tonnes over the period from 2013 to 2017 amid a series of measures aimed to cut pollution in the region.
The plans also include the setting up of a "renewable energy demonstration zone", as well as the creation of ecological conservation zone around Zhangjiakou and the planting of a new forest.
“We must use the staging of the Winter Olympics as an opportunity to stimulate economic and social development, speed up our transformation and upgrading, expand effective investment and strengthen poverty alleviation,” Zhao said in a meeting of the Hebei Government, according to Reuters.
Zhao’s claims come despite environmental concerns being raised when Beijing beat rival bidder Almaty in the race for the 2022 Winter Olympics at the International Olympic Committee Session in Kuala Lumpur on July 31 last year.
It comes as a result of the notorious problems Beijing has with air pollution, as well as a supposed lack of snow in Zhangjiakou, which organisers have frequently stressed will not be an issue come Games time.
Chinese Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli recently warned against overspending when Beijing stage the 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, insisting it is essential money is used “properly”.
The news followed President Xi Jinping claiming that in order to "host an Olympics as pure and clean as snow", according to the official Chinese news agency Xinhua, the budget should be more carefully analysed and reviewed on a regular basis.
It follows a clampdown on corruption across China, with sporting officials having been among those implicated.