In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted today to award the 2022 Winter Olympics to Beijing, China. The competition was tight between and Almaty, Kazakhstan, the only other city which submitted a bid.
“We are honoured and humbled by the International Olympic Committee’s decision to award Beijing the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games,” the Beijing 2022 bid committee said in a released statement. “It is with an incredible sense of excitement that we express our thanks to the IOC and the wider Olympic Movement. Just as with the Beijing 2008 Summer Games, the Olympic Family has put its faith in Beijing again to deliver the athlete-centred, sustainable and economical Games we have promised. This will be a memorable event at the foot of the Great Wall for the whole Olympic Family, the athletes and the spectators that will further enhance the tremendous potential to grow winter sports in our country, in Asia and around the world.”
There are roughly 110 IOC members, but only 85 of them voted in the 2022 Host City election. IOC President Thomas Bach did not (the President only votes in case of a tiebreak), nor did China’s three representatives; there are no IOC members from Kazakhstan, so they did not have to recuse themselves. 11 other members were excused.
One member was present, but abstained.
There were reportedly problems with the voting process, which was done via electronic tablets for the first time. After struggling with the system, members resorted to written votes, according to Inside The Games.
That meant that 42 votes were necessary to win, and Beijing received 44 votes. That was much closer than the competition appeared in the beginning.
Almaty ran a spirited bid, advertising their real snow and winter sports culture. You can read our review of the Almaty bid from the June candidate city presentations in Lausanne, Switzerland, here.
In the final days leading up to the vote, Almaty seemed to be making progress among IOC members. It was praised for fantastic presentations in the Kuala Lumpur session. You can watch a video from the presentation here.
“We extend our congratulations to Beijing on their successful bid for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games,” Almaty Vice Chairman Andrey Kryukov said. “China has played a significant role in the development of sport in Asia and we know that they will deliver a great Games. While we are disappointed, we are also grateful to the IOC for giving us the opportunity to present our vision to the world.”
Beijing, on the other hand, ran a sleek and professional campaign based on their ability to deliver on promises and the use of their huge economic power to implement a Games. Here is one of their earlier promotional videos.
While the strategy had many fans from the IOC membership from the very beginning, it has also drawn criticism for lacking snow, a meaningful winter sports legacy, and centralized venues, and for being built on environmental degradation and human rights violations. You can read our review of the Beijing bid here.
Nevertheless, Beijing’s economic might seems to have won out. In final presentations, Beijing touted the fact that the sports industry in China will be worth $800 million by 2022. It can also build hotels and venues at will, thanks to a captive economy directed by the government.
They also advertised that a Beijing Games would bring winter sports to roughly 300 million Chinese citizens, who do not have a strong winter sports culture. Whether this is indeed a lasting legacy remains to be seen. Basketball star Yao Ming was trotted out in support of the bid, but actually while growing up he was allowed to neither ski nor skate because sports organizers feared it hurting his basketball game.
Nevertheless, the sports industry and large size of the Chinese audience were clearly appealing to IOC members. This allows many marketing partnerships both by the IOC itself, and by its sponsors and companies which may be affiliated with some IOC members.
In terms of skiing, alpine competitions will be held in the Yanqing zone, roughly 90 kilometers outside of Beijing, and nordic and freestyle skiing in the Zhangjiakou zone, about 150 kilometers outside the city (hence the need for high speed rail).
“The USSA is looking forward to bringing our athletes, staff and supporters to Beijing as we once again look to be Best in the World,” the United States Ski and Snowboard Association wrote in a statement on their website announcing the Beijing victory.
Inside the Games also reported that in an informal survey of the eight members of the IOC’s Evaluation Commission – only four of whom are voting IOC members – eight had planned to vote for Almaty and only one for Beijing.
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Chelsea Little is FasterSkier's Editor-At-Large. A former racer at Ford Sayre, Dartmouth College and the Craftsbury Green Racing Project, she is a PhD candidate in aquatic ecology in the @Altermatt_lab at Eawag, the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology in Zurich, Switzerland. You can follow her on twitter @ChelskiLittle.