Author: Francesca Hu
Hosting the Winter Olympics is costing China billions of dollars, a scale of expenditure that has made the event less appealing to many cities around the world. But China looks at the Games with a different calculus. Most important of all to China’s leader, Xi Jinping, the Olympics are a chance to demonstrate to the world his country’s unity and confidence under his leadership.
According to a study at Oxford University, the operating costs of Olympics held since 1960 have averaged nearly three times what the host cities originally bid. This time, China has set a budget of about $3 billion, a figure that includes the building of competition venues, but not projects like a $1 billion high-speed rail line and a $5 billion expressway. The pandemic is making the Games even more expensive, and China’s “zero Covid” strategy implied more elaborate infection control measures.
However, Chinese authorities claimed to be respecting their budget, thanks to the need of less employees due to lack of spectators. Since there are no foreign visitors, the dedicated welcoming ceremony has also been cancelled leading to more savings. Respecting the budget is also facilitated by reusing competition venues built for the 2008 Summer Olympics and not countering long-term infrastructure investments.
China regards the Olympics as transforming Beijing, which gets only a foot of natural snow most winters, into a global destination for winter sports. “The success in opening the Winter Olympics has brought positive economic benefits and created new sources of growth for the local economy”, said the top spokesman for the city of Beijing, Xu Hejian.