The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced this morning that Beijing, China, has been selected as the host city for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, making it the first city to host both the Summer (2008) and Winter Games. Beijing received 44 votes from IOC delegates while Almaty, Kazakhstan, received 40.
In its first-ever Winter Games, Beijing has proposed a three-zone event venue plan that relies on six existing and six new competition venues. The three zones will be linked by high-speed rail. The venues for skiing and snowboarding are in an existing winter sports region, but have yet to be constructed.
The Yanqing Zone, located approximately 55 miles northwest of the Beijing Olympic Green, will contain the alpine skiing venues. It has a proposed elevation of 7,185 feet at the top, with a base elevation of 4,461 feet. The Zhangjiakou Zone, approximately 100 miles from the Beijing Olympic Green, will house venues for nordic combined, ski jumping, biathlon, cross-country skiing, and freestyle skiing and snowboarding.
Average snow depth is 5 centimeters in Yanqing (alpine skiing and sliding centre) and 21 centimeters at Zhangjiakou (nordic disciplines, freestyle skiing and snowboarding). The minimum depths are 1 cm and 4 cm respectively. The low snow-depth figures for Yanqing indicate that artificial snow-making capacity would be required. The Chinese stated in their bid, “snowmaking during the Games will not have any negative effect on the local ecosystem.”
Over the past two years, cities in Poland, Sweden, Switzerland, and Ukraine all withdrew their bids to host the Winter Olympics. While the promise of a boost to tourism and better national sporting facilities used to draw competitive Olympic bids from many cities, many countries have been deterred by the high cost of playing host. Greece fronted the $11 billion bill for the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics, the highest costing Olympic Games until the last Winter Olympics in Sochi, which came with a $50 billion price tag and myriad of other issues. Beijing officials say they will spend $3.9 billion on the 2022 Games.
After four of the original six cities vying to host the Games withdrew their bids, the IOC was left to choose between Beijing and Almaty—two nations with tarnished human-rights records.
Despite the success of the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, Chinese activists were calling on the IOC to reject Beijing’s bid based on what they called a “human rights crisis.” Other concerns include heavy air pollution and lack of snow. Chinese officials have already made assurances they are cracking down on smog and it will be nothing but blue skies and sunshine come 2022. They’ve even gone so far as to ban the use of BBQ grills.
The Chinese Human Rights Defenders group said awarding Beijing the 2022 Games would “endorse a government that blatantly violates human rights” and be “a contradiction of the Olympics’ goal of ‘promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.’” A Tibetan Buddhist monk who fled China last year also wrote a letter to IOC President Thomas Bach highlighting Beijing’s oppressive hand over Tibet. “How can the IOC award such prestige to China?” the monk wrote in the letter he also shared with the New York Times.
At the time of the 2008 Games, China promised to improve press freedom and human rights, but the Times reported then that negative news about the Games was censored and made sure that the designated protest zones around the city were empty. (Many who applied to protest in those areas were detained while filing their applications.)
Beijing’s only competition for the bid, Almaty, Kazakhstan, offered a much more traditional winter climate for the Games, and adapted the slogan “Keeping it Real,” throughout the bid process. With more natural snow coverage, Almaty already has a 12,000-seat ice arena, and maintained they would not have to spend as much money building new infrastructure as Beijing. However, Kazakhstan has its own humanitarian issues to grapple with, including Sochi-like homophobia and the imprisonment of political and religious activists under the rule of Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has been in power for 24 years.
In other Olympic news, the results of an investigation into the water where athletes will be competing at the 2016 Rio Olympics have come back… it’s basically raw sewage.