Beijing has been chosen to host the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, beating the bid of Kazakhstan’s Almaty, BBC reports. Having hosted the 2008 Olympics, the Chinese capital will be the first city to host both a summer and winter Games. Beijing and Almaty were considered outsiders when the 2022 bid race opened two years ago. But after a host of European cities withdrew for political or financial reasons, the Chinese bid beat Almaty by 44 votes to 40 with one abstention.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said that Beijing was awarded the Games because it fitted its new agenda for a “stronger focus on sustainability, legacy, and transparency”. Despite expected costs of up to £962m ($1.5bn), the IOC said: “Beijing will rely heavily on existing venues, including those built for the Games in 2008, such as the iconic Bird’s Nest stadium.”
The statement added: “Thanks to an additional contribution from the IOC of approximately £564m ($880m) to support the staging of the Olympic Winter Games in 2022, Beijing is confident that it will either break even or make a profit.” The 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, were estimated to have cost £31bn ($51bn), making it the most expensive Olympics in history.
The Games, which was supported by former NBA star Yao Ming, will be divided between the capital and the city of Zhangjiakou – which is 118 miles north-west of Beijing and will host the snow events. Despite concerns about a lack of natural snow in the mountains, and protests from human rights groups, Beijing had been the clear favourite to win the vote after it successfully hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics.
The IOC said in a statement: “Beijing aims to use the Games to accelerate the development of a new sport, culture and tourism area, and to encourage interest in winter sports in a region that is home to more than 300 million people in northern China.” But Human Rights Watch said the decision was “a slap in the face to China’s besieged human rights activists”.
Sophie Richardson, China director of the pressure group, added: “The Olympic motto of ‘higher, faster, and stronger’ is a perfect description of the Chinese government’s assault on civil society: more peaceful activists detained in record time, subject to far harsher treatment.”
Olympic skeleton champion Lizzie Yarnold told BBC Radio 5 live: “Before 2008 there was a lot of discussion around human rights and awareness around it. I hope that the International Olympic Committee have taken that into consideration and are going to make actual changes this time, rather than just discuss it.
“The venues need to be technically excellent. They need to be Olympic standard for you to bring good performances as athletes. I really hope the IOC will make sure that things are ready for the World Cup races that will have to take place there before the Olympics.”