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China claims to host the most environmentally friendly Olympic Games

Ukraine / Спорт

So why did China build a ski resort in the middle of a nature reserve?

China claims to host the most environmentally friendly Olympic Games

China touted its newly built Olympic ski facility as an example of its commitment to making the Beijing Games the greenest and cleanest ever.

But there is only one problem - it was built in the middle of a nature reserve.

Chinese organizers say the National Ski Center in Yanqing, about 90 kilometers from downtown Beijing, will be 100% powered by wind and solar energy.

According to satellite imagery and official maps analyzed by CNN, the ski center passes through the former core area of ​​the Songshan National Nature Reserve, a park established in 1985 to protect its dense forests, alpine grasslands and rich biodiversity.

By the time Beijing won the bid to host the 2022 Winter Games in 2015, the boundaries of the reserve had been changed to exclude the area where the ski field is now built. The new boundaries cover a larger total area, but critics say it is unlikely to offset the loss of wildlife habitat and damage to the site's fragile ecosystem as a result of the site's construction.

This apparent contradiction with Beijing's environmental advocacy comes amid a growing number of questions about the environmental costs of the Games. Given the city's arid climate, it will be entirely dependent on artificial snow, which experts warn will deplete energy and water resources.

And such environmental concerns will not end with the Olympics. As the Chinese government hopes to turn Yanqing into an international ski hotspot and build more ski runs, conservationists fear it could further damage the local environment.

Reserve

For decades, the Songshan National Nature Reserve has served as a refuge for many protected animal and plant species, including golden eagles and rare orchids.

According to Chinese law, no one is allowed to enter the main territory of the reserve, except for scientific research with the permission of the government. And a 2007 planning document obtained by CNN made it clear that development in the main area of ​​Songshan is prohibited.

So when Beijing won the bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, conservationists and nature enthusiasts were shocked to find that the proposed ski resort was located exactly in the middle of a nature reserve on Mount Xiao Haituo, Beijing's second highest peak.

One of the best tracks in the world

It's understandable why Xiao Haituo Mountain in the reserve was chosen as the site of the Winter Olympic skiing competition - its 900-meter vertical drop makes it a near-perfect spot for ski runs.

To host Olympic downhill events, the proposed ski area must have a vertical drop of at least 800 meters, a requirement that excludes most mountains in Beijing.

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