Construction is still under way on venues for the Winter Olympics in the city of Zhangjiakou, where many of the skiing and snowboarding events for the Beijing Games will take place, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported Monday.
The coronavirus wave sweeping across China reportedly stalled work with only a few weeks to go before the Games begin. Pandemic travel restrictions will leave resorts, hotels, and restaurants optimistically constructed to take advantage of the event standing empty, visiting financial ruin upon the already destitute Chongli district of Zhangjiakou.
The mountainous district of Chongli was classified “extremely impoverished” as recently as May 2019, the SCMP noted.
Chongli was then built up for the Olympics and now “boasts a string of luxury hotels including international chains, seven ski resorts, two high-speed railway stations,” and four venues constructed to handle Olympic events. About 20 percent of the population now works in jobs related to winter sports, and almost 3 million visitors hit the ski slopes in the last season before the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic.
The Winter Games were supposed to vault Chongli 30 years ahead in economic development, but now the Chinese government has banned foreign spectators, might ban domestic spectators, and will shut down the commercial ski slopes until March for security reasons. The pandemic is reportedly interfering with an American snowboard manufacturer’s plan to relocate its factory to a Zhangjiakou industrial park.
Construction work has also been delayed by the pandemic, although local managers assured the SCMP that Olympic venues are “about 90 percent complete” and should be ready on schedule.
The SCMP suggested the “diplomatic boycott” of the Beijing Olympics by America, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom – which is not a boycott, as diplomats do not play in the Games, and the Biden administration has already confirmed it will send diplomatic officials, anyway – could also damage Chongli’s ambitions by canceling VIP accommodations for visiting officials and their considerable retinues.
Concerns about the highly transmissible omicron coronavirus variant may yet cause more problems for the Winter Games. The North American National Hockey League canceled plans to send players to the Olympic ice hockey tournament, and on Friday the Canadian Olympic Committee said it was “worried” the Olympics might have to be postponed entirely.