BEIJING (AFP) - Beijing is confident it can host the 2022 Winter Olympics, an official said Tuesday, after several withdrawals left the bid - initially seen as a dry run for a future event - the unlikely favourite.
The Chinese capital's candidacy has been viewed as highly ambitious, given concerns over pollution and transportation, and the lack of a widespread winter sports tradition or top-class facilities.
But the Norwegian capital Oslo dropped out of the process last month, following earlier withdrawals by Swedish capital Stockholm, Krakow in Poland and Lviv in Ukraine, leaving the host of the spectacular 2008 Summer Games facing off only against the Kazakhstan city of Almaty.
"Some cities have quit the Winter Olympics bidding process, but we pay more attention to our own work," said Ms Wang Hui, the bid's chief spokesman.
"We respect the choices from the countries who have dropped out, but we have confidence that Beijing could be the host for the 2022 Winter Olympics," she added.
Beijing would host the third consecutive Olympics in the Far East if it wins the 2022 bid, with the 2018 Winter Games taking place in South Korea's Pyeongchang, followed by the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.
Ice sports would be staged in Beijing, while snow events would be held in Zhangjiakou in the neighbouring province of Hebei, around 200km away.
Pollution, which regularly affects northern China, is among the top worries. In recent weeks Beijing's notorious smog has forced hundreds of athletes to don masks for the city's marathon and also cut short a stage of the Tour of Beijing cycling race.
The city is currently enjoying blue skies after restrictions on factories and cars were imposed for the upcoming Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum summit.
Concerns have also been raised about the long distances between the Olympic sites, and the lack of an extensive network of ski resorts at high altitude.
There is also a shortage of expertise in sports such as luge and bobsleigh.
Ms Wang, a senior city propaganda official who also worked on the 2008 Games, defended Beijing's bid, saying pollution was the "most important target" and facilities would receive a "makeover to meet the Olympic standard".
The bid team has released a promotional video showing a new high-speed railway which will cut journey time between Beijing and Zhangjiakou from 3hr 15min to just 50 minutes.
As part of its international campaign, Beijing also recently launched a social media promotional drive with accounts on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube - all of which are blocked in China.