Beijing wins right to host 2022 Winter Olympics - despite lack of snow

Chinese capital beats Almaty in Kazakhstan to host Games

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Beijing will host the 2022 Winter Olympics, after beating Almaty, the financial capital of Kazakhstan, at the International Olympic Committee vote in Kuala Lumpur.

It means the Chinese capital will become the first city to host both the Summer and Winter games, but will attract severe criticism, both over human rights issues, and the fact that its mountains are more than 150 miles away, and the competitions will be held almost entirely on artificial snow.

The indoor elements of the games, such as ice skating and ice hockey, will use much of the city’s 2008 infrastructure, including the famous Water Cube for curling, and famous Bird’s Nest stadium taking the bizarre honour of hosting two Olympic opening ceremonies, one summer, one winter.

Human rights groups are outraged by the prospect of either country hosting the games. Tibetan groups continue to lobby the IOC to reject Beijing’s bid. The IOC “should insist that the host country rigorously comply with the Olympic charter and basic human rights rules – or risk losing the right to host the games”, according to Minky Worden of Human Rights Watch.

It is a particular headache for the IOC, whose preferred bid had been from Oslo, until it pulled out of the race last year. The usual justification given for awarding mega events to nations of dubious moral virtue is that they can be a catalyst for social change. Seb Coe has said just this about the 2019 Athletics World Championships that will take place in Qatar. Such an excuse will be almost impossible to make in Beijing’s case. In seven years since China’s capital city hosted the world’s premiere sporting event, little to no evidence of progress has emerged.

The bid is costed at just £3bn (£1.7bn) and is expected to be funded by private investment. The IOC no longer wants to be seen as an enforcer of waste, or worse, systemic corruption, particularly since the bill for Sochi 2014, paid by Russian taxpayers rose from around $12bn (£7bn) to £34bn ($50bn), with vast amounts siphoned off of it purloined by nefarious contractors.

But the public at large will nevertheless wonder at the need, in these climate change-concerned times, to host the Winter Olympics on artificial snow, and might wonder too, how on earth they will explain that decision to their grandkids.