August 17 - Harbin is still awaiting approval from China's Cabinet before launching a bid to host the 2018 Winter Olympics, an official at the city's sports bureau said today.


The northern metropolis of nearly 10 million people, which failed to make the shortlist for the 2002 and 2010 Games, wants to bring the Olympics back to China a decade after the successful Summer Games in Beijing.


Li Chunlei, a member of the team who are putting the bid together, said that it could not proceed until it is rubber-stamped by the Chinese Government.


He said: "We are applying for the 2018 Winter Olympics, Harbin wants to host the Games.


"But it is under the examination and approval of the State Council and there is still some time to go before the deadline."


The International Olympic Committee (IOC) launched the bid process for the 2018 Games at the end of last month and China has until October 15 to put forward the name of a bid city.


Li said: "If we submit our bidding to the IOC before the deadline it means we got approval.


"If we don't, we just don't."


Earlier this year China quietly dropped plans to bid for the 2018 FIFA World Cup having originally indicated that they would proceed with a bid.


It would be the city's third bid for the Winter Olympics, having previously failed to host the 2002 and 2010 Games.

Harbin failed to even make the short-list on both occasions as Salt Lake City was awarded the 2002 Games and Vancouver the 2010 event.

However, it later emerged that Salt Lake City had bribed a number of International Olympic Committee members to win their bid.

Harbin and its surrounding mountains have served as training grounds for China's winter sports teams for decades.


The city invested 3.1 billion yuan (£278 million) on building Olympic standard facilities for this year's Winter University Games, including the venue for China's first accredited Alpine skiing downhill race and a snowboarding and biathlon park.


Organisers said only bobsled and luge runs would now need to be built and there remains little doubt it will be the host city when China does hold the Winter Games, even if it is not in 2018.


Cui Dalin, China's Deputy Sports Minister, said: "The Chinese people are keen to host a Winter Games.


"Harbin, with unique geographical conditions for ice and snow and people who love the winter sports, is enthusiastic about hosting a Winter Olympics.


"I believe they will continue bidding until they win, until China successfully hosts a Winter Olympics."


The early favourites to host the Games are Munich, seeking to become the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics, and Pyeongchang, the South Korean city launching its third bid.


Also expected to bid are Geneva and Annecy.


The IOC is due to announce the winner at its Session in Durban on July 6, 2011.