staggering costs of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and the white-knuckle chaos of preparations for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

blue skies. High-speed railways have slashed the trip from Beijing to the most distant venues from four hours to one.

In an area perennially short of water, China built a network of pipelines to feed a phalanx of snow-making machines to dust barren slopes in white. Officials this week even claimed the entire Games would be “fully carbon neutral.”

Christophe Dubi, executive director of the upcoming Games, said in an interview that China proved to be a partner willing and able to do whatever it took to pull off the event, regardless of the challenges.

“Organizing the Games,” Mr. Dubi said, “was easy.”

The committee has deflected questions about human rights and other controversies overshadowing the Games. While the committee’s own charter calls for “improving the promotion and respect of human rights,” officials have said that it was not for them to judge the host country’s political system.

Instead, what matters most to the committee is pulling off the Games. By selecting Beijing, the committee had alighted on a “safe choice,” said Thomas Bach, the committee’s president.

unseasonably warm weather. Sochi 2014 — intended as a valedictory of Vladimir V. Putin’s rule in Russia — cost a staggering $51 billion.

Growing wariness of organizing the quadrennial event gave China an unexpected advantage. Beijing — no one’s idea of a winter sports capital — could reuse sites from the 2008 Games, including the iconic Bird’s Nest stadium for the opening ceremony. The Water Cube, which held the swimming and diving events 14 years ago, was rebranded as the Ice Cube.

Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan, once a republic of the Soviet Union.

The final tally was 44 to 40 for Beijing, with one abstention. Almaty’s supporters were left to fume over a glitch in the electronic voting system that prompted a manual recount to “protect the integrity of the vote.” That Kazakhstan has plunged into political turmoil on the eve of the Games seems now, in hindsight, further validation of the choice to pick Beijing.

Xinhua, compared to 480,000 three years before.

ceremonial scepter popular in the Qing dynasty, complete with a 6,000-seat stadium at the bottom that is supposed to hold soccer matches after the Olympics.

military preparations for the Games, including the installation of 44 antiaircraft batteries around Beijing, even though the likelihood of an aerial attack on the city seemed far-fetched.

“A safe Olympics is the biggest symbol of a successful Beijing Olympic Games, and is the most important symbol of the country’s international image,” he said then.

accusation of sexual harassment rocked the sports world last fall, the committee found itself caught in the furor.

fumed in private. Without the protective cover of the international committee, they feared reprisals if they spoke out individually.

The 2008 Olympics also faced harsh criticism. A campaign led by the actress Mia Farrow called the event the “genocide games” because of China’s support for Sudan despite its brutal crackdown in the Darfur region. The traditional torch relay was hounded by protests in cities on multiple continents, including Paris, London, San Francisco and Seoul.

The accusations against China today are, arguably, even more serious. The United States and other countries have declared that China’s crackdown against the Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang amounts to genocide. Ms. Farrow’s biting sobriquet has resurfaced for 2022, with a Twitter hashtag.

only screened spectators of its own choosing. It will mostly be a performance for Chinese and international television audiences, offering a choreographed view of the country, the one Mr. Xi’s government has of itself.

If the coronavirus can be kept under control, Beijing could weather the Olympics with fewer problems than seemed likely when it won the rights to the Games seven years ago. Mr. Xi’s government has already effectively declared it a success. A dozen other Chinese cities are already angling for the 2036 Summer Olympics.

“The world looks forward to China,” Mr. Xi said in an New Year’s address, “and China is ready.”

Chris Buckley contributed reporting. Claire Fu, Liu Yi and Li You contributed research.

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China talks up ‘green’ Olympics but prepares to fight smog

ZHANGJIAKOU, China, Dec 27 (Reuters) – China is using the Winter Olympic Games to drive its efforts to improve the environment, but smog-prone capital Beijing is still preparing for the worst as the opening ceremony looms.

Beijing has improved its air quality since China won its bid to host the Games, but the Ministry of Ecology and Environment has said winter smog risks remained “severe”.

Ministry spokesman Liu Youbin told reporters on Thursday that contingency plans were in place.

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“When the time comes, Beijing and Hebei will be guided to adopt reasonable environmental protection measures in accordance with the law,” he said.

Rumours that polluting heavy industries in the area would be shuttered from Jan. 1 were “not true”, however, he said.

Critics warned in 2015 – when China won its bid – that the Winter Olympics could be overshadowed by hazardous smog in a region dominated by heavy industry. Chinese President Xi Jinping subsequently vowed to run a “green” Games, and Hebei promised to “transform and upgrade” its industrial economy.

Since then, China has planted thousands of hectares of trees in Beijing and surrounding Hebei province, built sprawling wind and solar farms, and relocated hundreds of enterprises.

In Zhangjiakou city, 200 km (125 miles) northwest of Beijing and host to skiing and snowboarding events, 26-year-old amateur skier Deng Zhongping said he has already felt the difference.

“When I came to Beijing a few years back I would suffer with rhinitis because of pollution, but the air quality in Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei has improved a lot,” he said.

“I think the air quality at Zhangjiakou ski resort is even better than some foreign ski resorts.”

Wind turbines stand behind a snow gun operating at Genting Snow Park during a government-organised media tour to Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics venues in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, China December 21, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

In 2016, average concentrations of PM2.5 in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region stood at 71 micrograms per cubic metre and soared to more than 500 micrograms over winter. That compares to an average 40 micrograms from January to September this year.

The reading in Beijing was 33 micrograms in the first three quarters, meeting China’s 35-microgram standard, although exceeding the recommended World Health Organization level of 5 micrograms and likely to rise much higher over winter.

“China will win many medals at the Winter Olympics, but the smog … could plunge the Games into difficulties,” the Washington-based International Fund for China’s Environment said earlier this year.

GREENING THE GAMES

Officials said during a government-organised tour this week that all 26 Olympic venues in Beijing and Hebei province would be 100% powered by renewable energy. More than 700 hydrogen-fuelled vehicles will also be deployed, despite the government falling short of a hydrogen production target.

Preparations have included a tree-planting programme that increased forest coverage in Zhangjiakou to 70%-80%, up from 56% previously.

China has also said it would make the Games “carbon neutral” for the first time. Environmental group Greenpeace, though, said without more data it would be hard to evaluate whether the goal was actually met.

Water scarcity is another concern, especially when it comes to creating artificial snow and ice.

Organisers said the Games would not put additional pressure on local water supplies and rely instead on cisterns that collected mountain runoff and rainfall during the summer – in line with China’s wider efforts to create a “circular” economy in which resources are fully utilised and recycled.

“We are all self-sufficient and ecologically circular,” said Wang Jingxian, a member of the 2022 Games planning committee.

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Reporting by Muyu Xu and David Stanway; Editing by Tom Hogue

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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In Photos: Fires Ravage Southern Europe

ATHENS — Shells of houses and cars left gutted by flames. Stretches of forest reduced to ash. Tourists evacuated by boat from once idyllic beaches where the skies are thick with smoke. As southern Europe grapples with one of its worst heat waves in decades, deadly forest fires have engulfed stretches of the region, bringing a newly reopened tourism industry to a halt and forcing mass evacuations.

The raging fires pushed residents from their homes in villages on the Greek mainland and islands and across neighboring Turkey, and forced tourists to abandon beachside destinations across the region.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over the government’s handling of the deadly disaster, with opponents denouncing the lack of aerial support for the firefighting efforts.

Hundreds of square miles of forest burned as more than 180 fires blazed across the country. At least eight people died, hundreds were injured and dozens lost their homes.

in a video posted on Twitter. “My forest is in flames right now.”

Firefighters were able to control a fire approaching a power plant in Milas after working through the night to save the facility. Trees on the grounds of the power plant were burned, but the main site was not seriously damaged, officials said.

Greece battled multiple large fires across the country that killed scores of people.

While scientists have not yet had time to evaluate the connection between the current wave of extreme temperatures and global warming, it fits an overall trend that has seen climate change play a role in extreme weather in Europe. Research has shown that in major heat waves across Europe in recent summers, climate change has been a significant worsening factor.

Efthymis Lekkas, a professor of natural disaster management at the University of Athens, warned of “an enduring nightmare in August,” and urged the authorities to be ready for potential flooding after the destruction of large stretches of forest.

Greece’s General Secretariat for Civil Protection warned of an “extreme” risk of fires on Friday, as intense winds are forecast to worsen the situation.

Niki Kitsantonis reported from Athens and Megan Specia reported from New York.

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Nottingham’s Dilemma: Robin Hood or High Tech?

NOTTINGHAM, England — Hilary Silvester still recalls the moment she first saw the Broadmarsh Center, a bleak 1970s shopping mall that symbolized Nottingham’s modernization in a scorned architectural era but is now being consigned to history.

“To be honest, I started to cry,” said Ms. Silvester, executive chairwoman of the Nottingham Civic Society, describing how the center created a giant wall across the city, obliterating the familiar skyline behind. “I couldn’t see one building that I recognized.”

Main streets and malls across Europe are in retreat, with retail stores closing right and left, and when it is bulldozed completely, this aging, unloved edifice will become a symbol of that decline. While retailers were already fighting a losing battle against online competition, the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the trend, scuppering any chance of replacing the Broadmarsh with another mall.

So in a preview, perhaps, of what many cities throughout the world may soon face, Nottingham is mulling what to do with this soon-to-be gaping hole at its core. And at the heart of that debate lies an intriguing question: Should the city of the future look more like the past?

hilltop castle, elegant Georgian streets and a hidden maze of around 500 sandstone caves, some dating to the Middle Ages.

Bath, look at York, you look at the visitor traffic they are getting,” said Ms. Blair-Manning, referring to English cities that have long been tourist magnets. She added that Mr. Rogan’s ideas “would make complete and utter sense if you were building something that actually was focused on heritage tourism.”

Others are not so sure. David Mellen, the leader of Nottingham City Council, favors a blend of living space and green areas, with cafes and some shops. The lease on the Broadmarsh was handed back to the council when plans for a new mall collapsed, but the site will still have to generate income.

Mr. Mellen favors drawing more tourists to the city’s unusual network of caves, which include Britain’s only medieval underground tannery and were often carved into the sandstone as cellars and used over the centuries for everything from store rooms and dwellings to factories and air raid shelters. But he isn’t convinced about readopting the old street pattern.

“Cobbles were there for a purpose at that particular time,” he said. “You can’t go back to the past unless you are in some kind of theme park, and we are not a theme park, we are a core city of the U.K.”

Greg Nugent, who leads an advisory committee on the redevelopment, likes the idea of creating a symbolic link to Sherwood Forest but is also cautious about readopting the old street plan.

“I like it but I’d want it to be based on more than ‘Let’s bring those streets back,’” he said. “I think there’s a bigger idea in there.”

With so much empty space concentrated in the center of Nottingham, he sees an unrivaled opportunity for the city to steal a march on rivals coping with the decline of central malls and main streets. One option might be to devote part of it to businesses working on the green technologies of the future, said Mr. Nugent, who was the director of the organizing committee of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

“I think there is a beginning of a renaissance for Nottingham,” he said. “It’s a really interesting city, very creative — it has a bit of an attitude. It’s not London, it’s not Manchester, it’s got a certain bravery about it.”

Perhaps that was not best reflected in the Broadmarsh, which — never mind the architecture — always had to play second fiddle to the Victoria Center, a more upmarket competitor nearby.

Inside the demolition zone, the Broadmarsh feels like a time capsule. Movie posters still hang on the wall of one empty store that sold videos, music and books. “Open for shoppin’” reads the mural not far from a disconnected A.T.M. surrounded by building debris.

Beneath this area builders have discovered one ancient burial site, and Georgian and Victorian brickwork can be seen in an area close to some of the city’s caves.

Mr. Nugent’s committee should have completed its work by the summer, and at least everyone agrees what should not replace the Broadmarsh. “In our consultation with the public we have had over 3,000 individual responses and there’s nobody who’s come and said, ‘We’d like another shopping center please,’” Mr. Mellen said.

Finding an alternative that will satisfy a sometimes rebellious city like Nottingham might prove harder, however. Mr. Nugent muses that in the 1970s, at a time when going shopping became a sort of British religion, the Broadmarsh was a sort of cathedral.

“What we all need to do now is work out what we will worship next, into this new decade and century,” he said. “That is the code that we have to crack, and it’s exciting that Nottingham gets to start this.”

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Olympics participants will be offered a vaccine before the Games.

Athletes and officials traveling to the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer will be offered doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine before arriving in Japan, the International Olympic Committee said on Thursday, in an effort to reassure the Japanese public about the safety of hosting the event.

The committee said it had struck a deal with the drug makers to send the doses to Olympic and Paralympic Games participants’ home countries, where they will be administered through domestic inoculation programs.

The effort is the latest attempt by Olympic officials and Japanese organizers to assuage the concerns of Japanese people who do not want their country to host the Games during the pandemic. Less than 1 percent of people in Japan have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to a New York Times database, and restaurants, bars and nonessential businesses are closed in several areas, including Tokyo.

The initiative was developed “not only to contribute to the safe environment of the Games, but also out of respect for the residents of Japan,” the committee said in a statement.

would buy doses of a Chinese-made vaccine, there is no requirement for athletes, coaches, officials and others attending the Games to be vaccinated.

In March, China said it would provide vaccines for Olympic participants. But China’s vaccines have not been approved in many countries, and several — including Japan — said they would decline the offer.

The I.O.C. president, Thomas Bach, acknowledged that accepting the vaccine was voluntary, even as he urged competitors to be inoculated. “We are inviting the athletes and participating delegations of the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games to lead by example and accept the vaccine where and when possible,” he said.

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Searching for Roger Federer

Pilgrims have been coming to Switzerland’s Einsiedeln Abbey since shortly after St. Meinrad, the Martyr of Hospitality, retreated to the secluded “Dark Forest” in a valley between Lake Zurich and Lake Lucerne to establish a hermitage around 835.

I visited the abbey in October 2019 at the start of an unusual pilgrimage: to travel in the footsteps of the Swiss tennis player Roger Federer. As Switzerland’s best-known pilgrimage site, it seemed like an auspicious place to start my journey. I had no idea that Mr. Federer had a connection to the place, but when I contacted the abbey to arrange my visit, the monks had a surprise for me. “Did you know our abbot is also named Federer?” asked Marc Dosch, the abbey’s lay representative. I had not. “Yes and he baptized Roger’s children.”

Einsiedeln, with its twin-spired, Baroque-style church and horses and mooing cows dotting the lush, green hills, before being welcomed by Abbot Federer, who greeted me like an old friend. “You know, before Roger became famous, I always used to have to spell my name,” he told me. “But now everyone knows the name Federer.”

Djokovic doesn’t win any more titles. I don’t want him to catch Roger.”

Jakob Schmid Kaspar Wetli, where Jakob ages his Stegeler brand wine in giant oak barrels. After a vegetarian lunch, the village president, Bruno Seelos, stopped by for a chat. Mr. Seelos explained that the village planned to name something after Roger Federer, but they were waiting until he retired. Jakob and Antonia weren’t convinced this was necessary. “It’s like a cult of personality,” she said.

Roger Federer biography and my own research, I identified nearly a dozen tennis clubs around the country that I wanted to visit — many are clubs where Mr. Federer currently trains, others are places where he developed his game as a junior.

I found my opportunity that afternoon at Tennisclub Seeblick, a posh club of well-groomed red clay courts with stunning views over Lake Zurich where Mr. Federer is known to practice. I cornered Alan, a club member who was enjoying a post-tennis coffee in the club’s cafe, and convinced him to hit with me for a few minutes. I was rusty, spraying balls around the court with little idea of where they might land.

The next day, I made my way by train and bus to the venerable Hotel Schweizerhof, a century-old lodge with a Turkish-style hammam nestled in the picturesque village of Lenzerheide, deep in the Swiss Alps in the canton of Graubünden. Roger and his family moved to the neighboring village of Valbella in 2012, and I wanted to understand why he had chosen to live in this out-of-the-way place, instead of one of Switzerland’s more famous winter resorts like Zermatt, Gstaad or St. Moritz.

Tennisclub Felsberg, a club where Roger has trained on several occasions. Mr. Poltera drove us south on a snaking country road past villages perched on green hillsides below jagged peaks that would soon be full of snow toward the village of Lain.

As we got out to look at a remote playground where Mr. Poltera told me Roger Federer likes to take his family, it was easy to understand why he would want to live in such a place. “You see,” Mr. Poltera said, sweeping his right hand toward a snow-capped peak, “here Roger can have peace, he can play with his kids like a normal person.”

Turning north, we ventured into Valbella, a charming little community with a handful of businesses and Alpine-style homes perched across a hillside with views of Lake Heidsee and nearby mountains. I never asked Mr. Poltera to show me Mr. Federer’s house, but he pre-empted any potential request, explaining, “Roger lives here for privacy, that’s why we’re not going to drive by his home.”

Tennisclub Felsberg, a half-hour drive down a zigzagging road from Valbella, is an out-of-the-way place with three courts situated along the Rhine. “We’re playing on Roger’s court,” Mr. Poltera said, pointing to a sign above Court 1 labeled “Roger Platz.” He led me to a small dressing room with a humble shower and sink. “You’ll get dressed and take your shower here, just like Roger does.”

I muffed several of my first shots but quickly found a groove and fell into a blissful tennis trance.

St. Jakobshalle Arena, where Mr. Federer served as a ball boy as a kid.

In between matches, I explored Basel’s charming old town and visited a host of Federer sites, including Villa Wenkenhof, the stately, 17th-century English manor house where Mr. Federer and his wife, Mirka, were married in 2009; the Old Boys Tennis Club, where the tennis star honed his game as a child; and the “Swiss Tennis House” national training center in Biel, where I met Yves Allegro, who was Mr. Federer’s roommate when they trained at the facility in 1997.

Hotel Les Trois Rois overlooking the Rhine, where cheeseburgers at the bar go for $48, and as I walked across the chandelier-heavy lobby, I nearly bumped into one of Mr. Federer’s twin daughters, who were joyfully bounding down a grand staircase with the tennis player’s father, Robert, trailing.

On the morning of the final, I took the tram to Münchenstein, the Basel suburb where Roger spent most of his childhood. Daniel Altermatt, a Münchenstein city councilperson, greeted me on the platform wearing a beret and dark sunglasses. He took me on an extensive tour of the town, starting with the small housing development called Wasserhaus, where Mr. Federer grew up.

His block felt narrow, too cramped for a person of his stature. Around the corner, on a small street with a canopy of trees, Mr. Altermatt explained how someone had tried to unofficially rename the street Roger Federer Allée. “We have a local regulation prohibiting us from naming anything after anyone who is still alive,” he said. “So if we want to name something after Roger, we’d have to kill him first.”

Mr. Altermatt drove me to the arena, where I bumped into Marc Dosch, who was there for the final with Abbot Federer. “I lost the abbot,” he said, and I wondered if perhaps he was giving Mr. Federer a prematch blessing.

Alex de Minaur, a surprise finalist, to capture his record 10th Swiss Indoors title in what seemed like an anticlimactic final until Mr. Federer broke down in tears during his victory speech. He appeared in the pressroom carrying his trophy after the match, and this time he was still in his tennis gear. He had literally won the tournament without breaking a sweat.

I showed Mr. Federer a photo of him hoisting a trophy at age 10, that was given to me by Madeline Bärlocher, one of his first coaches at the Old Boys club, and asked him if the feeling of lifting trophies had changed over the years. “It’s similar,” he said, smiling. “It’s been an incredible journey, it definitely hit me hard being here in Basel. I don’t take these tournament victories as a normal thing, I take it as something quite unique and special even though it’s been a lot by now.”

And what, I asked, had triggered his tears on court. “When I stand there and look back at everything I had to go through, it really touches me,” he said. Mr. Federer said that he tends to break down depending “on the applause of the people, how warm it is, how much they feel that I’m struggling or not and how much love I get.”

As I waited for the tram, it started to rain and I remembered that I had my Roger Federer hat buried in my bag. I hadn’t worn it in more than a week, but now it was time to put my hat back on and return home — a tennis player once again.

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Julie Pomagalski, Former Olympic Snowboarder, Is Killed in an Avalanche

Julie Pomagalski, a two-time Olympian for France in snowboarding and a former world champion, was killed in an avalanche in the Swiss Alps on Tuesday, French sports officials said on Wednesday. She was 40.

The accident occurred in the canton of Uri, according to the Swiss authorities, who said that Ms. Pomagalski was among a group of four people who had been freeriding on a mountain, Gemsstock, when a slab of snow broke loose for unexplained reasons. Freeriding is snowboarding or skiing on ungroomed backcountry terrain, in contrast to a course.

Three of them were swept away by the avalanche, with two dying and one person hospitalized, a police report said. The French ski federation identified the other person who was killed as Bruno Cutelli, a guide and a mountain rescue unit member.

A helicopter and two search dogs responded to the mountain, but Ms. Pomagalski and Mr. Cutelli had been completely buried by the time they arrived, the authorities said.

European Avalanche Warning Services, 85 people have been killed in avalanches across the continent so far in the 2020-21 season. Europe averages about 100 avalanche fatalities annually, the organization said.

Colorado Avalanche Information Center, which tracks fatalities in every state. The total number of fatalities for all of last season was 23.

Ms. Pomagalski was born Oct. 10, 1980, in La Tronche, France, which is near Grenoble. Details about her survivors were not immediately available.

She came from a line of alpine sporting enthusiasts.

In 1934, her grandfather Jean Pomagalski, a 29-year-old engineer at the time, invented the first surface lift in Alpe d’Huez in the French Alps, according to a history of the Poma Group, a company he founded. The lift carried skiers about 705 feet and a vertical distance of about 210 feet, according to the company’s website. The Poma lift name became widely associated with chair lifts.

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