BEIJING, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- With 500 days to go before the opening of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach lauded Beijing 2022 for being a "historic event" which will make the Chinese capital the first city to host both the summer and winter Olympic Games.
"This is something very significant for the entire Olympic Movement," Bach said in an interview with the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV ahead of the 500-day milestone.
"And we have seen how much the Chinese people are embracing this opportunity by getting familiar with winter sport in record time, by becoming really an emerging nation in winter sports."
On July 31, 2015, the IOC awarded the hosting right of the 2022 Winter Olympics to Beijing, defeating Kazak opponent Almaty.
An essential part of the successful Beijing 2022 bid was the promise to get 300 million people into winter sports, and the developments are evident in China.
"I'm really excited about this campaign, and I must say I'm full of admiration for the Chinese people. How they have embraced winter sport in such a short time," Bach said. "Because with this huge engagement of 300 million people becoming familiar with winter sport, I think we can say, already now, that there will be a winter sport world before Beijing 2022 and a very different one after Beijing 2022."
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has hit the sports world hard, as major sports events, including Tokyo 2020, were forced to be pushed back for one year. But the preparation work for Beijing 2022 remains on track.
"The progress is, really, the Chinese way, if I may say. You see the dynamism and the efficiency of the Chinese people behind these preparations and behind the organization. And you also see the great engagement when you see that more than 800,000 Chinese people have applied to become a volunteer," Bach noted.
"When you see the impressive engagement of the Chinese enterprises and the businesses supporting the Olympic Games. When you see the Chinese people really starting to play winter sports themselves, and to make their kids familiar with winter sports. When you see the infrastructure, which has been built and is under construction to accommodate these many, many Chinese people who wanted to practice winter sport. Then, you can only be impressed."
The Tokyo Games, originally scheduled to start on July 24 this year, was postponed for the first time in the Olympic history, due to COVID-19.
As the world grapples with the pandemic, doubts are hovering over the postponed Tokyo Games - such as will the Games be held without spectators, or whether the Games will suffer a massive downsizing.
But Bach reiterated that it is too early to make a final decision.
"We cannot be sure today how the world will look like next year. So, we have to prepare for different scenarios," Bach said.
"It's not the time to speculate now about the different measures or consequences we will have.
"Because the situation - the scenario - I'm talking about does not only depend on the conditions in the host country. It also depends on all the conditions in the other National Olympic Committees."
Meanwhile, the IOC chief expressed cautious optimism about the latest developments regarding the rapid testing methods and vaccines.
"We are really confident that, with these latest developments in testing and with regard to vaccines, we can benefit from this - even though we have seen just recently that you can organize big sports events even without a vaccine," said Bach.
"But such a vaccine would of course be a most welcome additional tool, which then will be complimentary to many other measures against the virus we are going to take together with the Organizing Committees in Tokyo and in Beijing."