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Beijing edges out Almaty for 2022 winter Olympics

Beijing will become the first city to host both the summer and winter Olympics after it was today (Friday) awarded the hosting rights to the 2022 winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Beijing, which hosted the 2008 summer Olympics, emerged victorious against the rival claim of Almaty after an International Olympic Committee (IOC) vote in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In a tight contest, Beijing secured 44 votes to Almaty’s 40, with one IOC member abstaining.

The Chinese capital and the Kazakh city made their final pitches to the voting IOC members earlier today, with Beijing 2022 placing a heavy emphasis on its offering as a safe choice to deliver the winter Olympic Games. “We will honour all the commitments,” Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a video message at the start of Beijing’s presentation. “Let me assure you, if you choose Beijing the Chinese people will stage excellent and extraordinary Games.”

Beijing 2022 is tapping into the IOC’s Olympic Agenda 2020 reform efforts by pledging to utilise a number of venues from the 2008 Games, among them the Bird's Nest stadium and the Water Cube as well as media and broadcasting centres within Beijing's Olympic park.

The plan also includes the mountain zones of Yanqing and Zhangjiakou, 90km and 160km away from Beijing respectively. One of the main criticisms of its bid has been the heavy reliance on artificial snow at these venues, which see minimal annual snowfall. However, China’s Sports Minister Liu Peng played down these concerns, stating that ski resorts have operated successfully in Zhangjiakou for two decades.

“Beijing 2022 will build on our existing snow-making capabilities to supplement snowfall… with minimal environmental impact,” he said. “We have a strong experience in organising winter Games.”

Beijing 2022’s vision revolves around the commercial growth potential that a winter Games would offer the development of winter sport, while also utilising the country’s Beijing 2008 summer Games legacy to guarantee successful delivery and full alignment with the spirit and objectives of Agenda 2020.

Beijing 2022 has outlined that China offers significant potential for the growth of winter sports, with the Chinese government having previously set the development of the country’s sports industry a main priority. Under this long-term plan seeking to attract 300 million people to ice and snow sports, the sport industry is expected to grow rapidly to $800bn (€726bn) by 2025 through promoting sports businesses, developing key sport facilities and opening up an expanded sport market for consumer products and services in the sector.

“We pledge our full guarantees in the financial, legal, security, organisational and operational areas,” Chinese Vice-Premier and Beijing 2022 chief Liu Yandong added earlier today. “We will promote winter sports in the world's most populous country.”

Almaty also tabled a bid for the 2014 winter Olympics, but failed to make the candidate city shortlist. Today’s decision followed a process that saw many potential applicants fall by the wayside at an early stage. Oslo withdrew its bid for the 2022 Games in October, leaving only Beijing and Almaty to battle it out for the rights. The Norwegian city became the latest applicant to drop out of the running after the country’s government decided against providing the necessary financial support amid concerns about the cost of staging the Games.

The most recent winter Games last year in Sochi, Russia reportedly cost a record $51bn, raising concerns about how future host cities could afford to host the event. Oslo was the latest in a long line of cities to ditch a bid, following Stockholm in Sweden, Krakow in Poland and Lviv in Ukraine. Before that, bids from St. Moritz in Switzerland and Munich in Germany were scrapped after public referendums.