China has approved plans for a high speed railway which will run from Beijing (pictured), hosts of the 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, to Zhangjiakou ©Getty Images

China has approved plans for a ¥58.41 billion (£5.98 billion/$9.21 billion/€8.39 billion) high speed railway which will be used during the 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Beijing.

Connecting Beijing with the northern city of Zhangjiakou in Hebei province, the 174 kilometre-long railway will be constructed over a four-and-a-half year period and will be able to transport 60 million people per year, according to a post on the Zhangjiakou Development and Reform Commission's website.

Beijing 2022 officials have been reluctant to reveal the budget for the railway - which links the three venue clusters for the Games - stating it was "unrelated" to what proved to be a successful bid in July.

They claim the line is the responsibility of the China Railway Company and is one part of a larger network linking the capital with Inner Mongolia.

This was already being built and would have been completed regardless of whether they beat rivals Almaty or not, it is claimed.

However, with construction having seemingly been brought forward because of the bid, and with the line such a key part of the Chinese effort - aiming to reduce journey times from three hours to 50 minutes - it is hard to agree with the insistence that the project, as well as the construction of two major highways linking the two cities, was indeed unrelated.

Zhangjiakou will host cross-country skiing, ski jumping, snowboarding, biathlon and Nordic combined in 2022.

The Yanqing venue cluster, which lies between Beijing and Zhangjiakou, is set to stage alpine skiing, bobsleigh, luge and skeleton.

Curling, ice hockey and skating will be held in Beijing itself, which will also be home to the opening and closing ceremonies and the Olympic Village.

The approval of the railway plans came shortly before today's arrival of an International Olympic Committee (IOC) delegation to China’s capital to conduct a two-day orientation seminar with the Beijing 2022 organisers.

Olympic Games executive director Christophe Dubi led an International Olympic Committee delegation which visited Beijing today
Olympic Games executive director Christophe Dubi leads an International Olympic Committee delegation visiting Beijing ©Getty Images

The 12-member delegation, led by IOC Olympic Games executive director Christophe Dubi, also includes Xavier Gonzalez, chief executive of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

In what is reported to be the first meeting between the IOC and the 2022 team since Beijing won the right to host the Games at the 128th IOC session in Kuala Lumpur on July 31, the two parties plan to look at the preparatory work that has been carried out thus far.

IOC and IPC participants are set to discuss several subjects with the organisers, including the opportunities presented to Beijing by hosting the Games, the key Games deliverables, and important areas of Games management.

The 2022 team are due to speak about the philosophy and vision of the Games, as well as the positive effect they could potentially have on the regional economy in northern China, and their role in speeding up the development of winter sports across the country.

Beijing has until next month to establish the 2022 Winter Olympic Games Organising Committee, according to the host city contract.

Organisers hope the IOC delegation’s visit will deepen the city’s understanding of how to organise a successful Games and lay good foundations for the Organising Committee's work over the next seven years.

Among those the IOC delegation is set to meet are Liu Peng, Minister of China's General Administration of Sport, as well as Wang Anshun, the Mayor of Beijing and chairman of Beijing 2022, and Zhang Qingwei, the Governor of Hebei province.

The city will become the first to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics, after staging the former in 2008.

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