Thomas Bach IOC president
IANS photos

With 500 days to go before the opening of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has 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.

IOC Chief Thomas Bach on Beijing 2022

"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, reports Xinhua news agency.

"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.

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 organisation. 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.

The Tokyo Games, originally scheduled to start on July 24 this year, were postponed for the first time in the Olympic history due to coronavirus outbreak.

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. It's not the time to speculate now about the different measures or consequences we will have," Bach said.

"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."