HANGZHOU, Zhejiang: The 18th Asian Games in Indonesia may be coming to a close, but preparations for the next installment are already in full swing.
China’s ancient city of Hangzhou, famous for its scenic lake and temples, will host the 2022 Asian Games.
New sporting venues and train lines are being built, in what is seen as an opportunity to speed up development in the rapidly growing city.
Dubbed the “giant lotus” by locals, the Hangzhou Olympic Sports Centre, which is set to be completed in September, can seat 80,000 people and will be the main venue for the next Asian Games in 2022.
It’s among 12 new venues that are being built for Asia’s biggest multi-sport event.
For 56-year-old Mao Xiu Tao who lives just a stone’s throw away, the Asian Games is something she is looking forward to, ever since her family moved into their new house in 2016.
This is even though there may be huge crowds and restrictions, not unlike what was seen when Hangzhou hosted the G20 Summit two years ago.
“When we bought this house, we already were anticipating the Asian Games,” said Ms Mao.
“So, you asked me if I would be put off by the inconveniences on the road for example, I won’t be.”
The Olympic stadium is located in Hangzhou’s new district, Qianjiang Century City – where construction is in full swing.
With high-end offices and apartments in the works – it is part of the city’s latest urbanisation strategy to develop the area along the 235-kilometre long Qiantang River.
When completed, the core area will be a new commercial and business centre together with another development project, Qianjiang New City across the waterway.
The games venues will also be part of the transformation.
Local authorities say one of the considerations for the design of these new facilities is their function during and after the games are over.
For example, there are plans for the Asian Games Village, which is set to accommodate about 10,000 athletes and officials in 2022, to be turned into a library, museum and even youth centre after the games.
Experts say the new district would make Hangzhou more competitive and relieve some of the load on the traditional city centre, built around the famous West Lake which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
“In the future industrial layout, the area will need to develop a high-end finance industry, modern services industry, among others to create a new city,” said Yiyi Zhang head of strategic consulting at real estate company JLL in China.
“This will also attract more businesses and talent to gather in Qianjiang New City.”
Ten new metro lines are also being built, with major extensions underway for the three existing lines. All are expected to be ready for the Games.
“Hangzhou has too few metro lines and the traffic is still very congested. We need more investment in transport,” said 32-year-old Hangzhou resident Zhu Ah Kao.
“It has taken a bit long, it would be great if the new lines could open next year.”
However, some residents had mixed feelings of what the city’s rapid development would mean for them.
“The Asian Games will certainly speed up development, whether it’s the economy or otherwise – but the housing prices have certainly gone up very fast as well,” said Mr Liang Jia Hao, who currently works in Hangzhou.
But most people agreed that the Asian Games will boost the city’s profile.
Beijing will also host the Winter Olympics in 2022 and experts note this will put China in the international sporting limelight again after hosting the Summer Olympics 10 years ago.
“(The Asian Games and Winter Olympics) are several months apart so there’s not a conflict in that side of things. It’s also quite different in terms of the venue construction for the Winter Olympics, a lot of specialist venues that go into the ice and sports,” said sports commentator and founder of China Sports Insider, Mark Dreyer.
“But in terms of hosting an event, the planning, the ticketing, the marketing, all these other things, the sponsorship and so on, that’s definitely is a synergy in terms of the two games can work together – draw on past experience but also from those other games around the same time.”
China has an ambitious plan to build a sports industry worth over an estimated US$730 billion by 2025, much of it seen to be driven by the government.
And there’s no doubt that it will be pulling out the stops, to be ready to host two major sporting events in 2022.