Beijing spends big as it prepares for 2022 Olympics

Updated: Feb 27, 2018, 14:56 IST | AFP

Villages are being razed in northern China. Mountains are being cut to size. And new stadiums, high-speed train lines, expressways and three separate Olympic villages are coming to life

Representation pic
Representation pic

Villages are being razed in northern China. Mountains are being cut to size. And new stadiums, high-speed train lines, expressways and three separate Olympic villages are coming to life. With the Pyeongchang Games in South Korea having wrapped up on Sunday, the focus turns to Beijing as China spends big to host its first Winter Olympics in 2022. Still four years out, the tab for the Games has ticked upwards, with outlays appearing to eclipse the budget in Beijing's winning bid by at least half a billion dollars, according to an AFP review of government requests for the massive project.

Beijing won the Games for its willingness to spend. For the 2008 Summer Olympics the nation poured in an estimated $40 billion. That event amounted to a stunning coming out party for the rising giant -- but afterwards many of the venues sat empty. Beijing has pledged this time will be different, with officials drumming up sustainable development and post-Olympics plans for the heap of new facilities. But in Chongli, where snowboard and ski events like the halfpipe will run, thousands of farmers are being pushed from their land.

In Taizicheng village, the site of a planned Olympic village, mammoth train station and snow town, only soil remains where villagers' homes once stood. Up the valley, the brick and red-tiled roof homes of Qipanliang village where 300 families once lived were abandoned earlier this year and are set to be demolished. A new expressway and high-speed train for whisking athletes to events will cut through the area. Ying Gui, 64, and his family of five are among the few remaining villagers. "We will leave once we sell all this," said his daughter-in-law, waving at the candies, rice wine and gloves packed onto the shelves of their home, which doubles as the village store.

"We will have no home, no land for crops, nothing at all left," she said, adding however that she was satisfied with the compensation offered by the government. Ying is not sure what he will do. He sold his 40 cows and harvested his last crop of potatoes and purple cabbage. "I'm a farmer," he said. "I don't know what to think." For now Ying often wanders up the mountain where workers are burrowing tunnels for the train and expressway. He can sell scrap metal he finds at the construction site for a couple of cents a pound.

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