BERLIN (Reuters) - The Beijing winter Olympics next year will be spectacular and will transform winter sports "for ever" by introducing some 300 million Chinese people to them, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said on Thursday.
In a video address to China, Bach said Beijing, which will become the first city ever to have staged both summer and winter Games after also staging the Beijing 2008 Olympics, was ready to deliver 'spectacular Games'.
"Our Chinese partners and friends will deliver spectacular Olympic winter Games that will change the landscape of winter sport for ever," Bach said.
Organisers, who have already completed the majority of venues, have promised a "joyful rendezvous upon pure ice and snow" that will kick off on Feb. 4, 2022.
Artificial powder will likely be needed to help cover the slopes carved out on the brown, arid mountains northwest of Beijing but the IOC is confident the introduction of millions of Chinese to winter sports will help open up a huge, untapped market.
"Every time I have visited China I am impressed by the enthusiasm and support for the Olympic Games," Bach said after signing the invitations for the athletes of the 206 Olympic committees to attend the Games.
"You can already feel this passion for winter sport with the excellent preparations for the Games. We can say already now with great confidence China is ready to welcome the world's best athletes for unforgettable Olympic Games Beijing 2022."
However, dozens of human rights groups and some Western politicians have criticised the decision to let China host next year's winter Olympics, citing Beijing's policies in Hong Kong and the region of Xinjiang and its overall rights record.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Gareth Jones)