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To make an Olympic ski jump, China clad a hillside in steel and blanketed it with artificial snow. To construct a high-speed rail line linking the venues and Beijing, engineers blasted tunnels through the surrounding mountains. And to keep the coronavirus at bay, workers are conducting tens of thousands of PCR tests on Games participants every day.

Hosting the Winter Olympics is costing China billions of dollars, a scale of expenditure that has made the event less appealing to many cities around the world in recent years. More and more of them have concluded that the Games are not worth being left with a hefty bill, white elephant stadiums, and fewer benefits from tourism than they had hoped.

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