Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Awarding the 2022 Olympic Bid

Beijing has no snow, but no one knows where Almaty is.

Four of the original six cities vying to host the 2022 Winter Olympics ultimately had second thoughts, leaving Beijing, China and Almaty, Kazakhstan, to go for gold. After Oslo, Stockholm, Lviv, and Krakow said a polite “no thank you,” the International Olympic Committee must now choose between two nations with human-rights records that don’t really give anyone the warm fuzzies.

While Beijing received much praise for a job well done at the 2008 Summer Games, you’d think the number one criteria for hosting the Winter Games would be snow—something Beijing is seriously lacking. But the Chinese bid committee has adopted a firm can-do ’tude on the city’s ability to make enough snow for the 2022 winter events.

Should Beijing win the Olympic bid, they will be heavily reliant on manmade snow.  PHOTO: Pete Robbins/Flickr
Should Beijing win the Olympic bid, they will be heavily reliant on manmade snow. PHOTO: Pete Robbins/Flickr

To back them up, they brought in a team of ski industry experts, including resort designer Wei Qinghua who said the area’s cold, dry winters are just right for crafting world-class slopes. Considering the area where the ski halfpipe, slopestyle, and freestyle events would be held receives about a tenth of an inch of precipitation annually, they better get started—yesterday. Should Beijing bag the bid, it would become the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Games.

On the opposing team, Almaty’s biggest problem could be that no one can find Kazakhstan on a map, followed by the city’s lack of experience hosting an event of this caliber. But the mighty Almaty committee says they should get to host the party because, duh, they have real snow. Plus, their venues are all close together and easy to access. Not the case in Beijing, who’s bid includes plans to build a high-speed rail to link between the indoor events in the city and the outdoor events in the mountains.

Kazakhstan is a former Soviet nation that gained independence in 1991, and some critics worry Almaty won’t be able to cover the very costly tab. The first modern Games (Athens 1896) cost $448,000 (way less than these two ski areas are on the market for), Vancouver’s 2010 Winter Games cost the Canadians more than $6 billion, while the Sochi Games came with a whopping $51 billion price tag.

The mayor of Almaty told the New York Times he’s not sweatin’ it. “We want to win. Once you say you are a mushroom, you might as well get into the soup.” Here’s hoping the IOC is into fungi. They meet in Malaysia on July 31 to make their final decision.