Beijing on brink of history, favoured to win 2022 Winter Olympics

Beijing, if it earns the nod over Almaty in Kazakhstan, will become the first city to host the summer and winter Olympics. This 2010 photo shows skiers outside the National Stadium, but the city's 2022 Games bid will rely on natural snowfall augmente
Beijing, if it earns the nod over Almaty in Kazakhstan, will become the first city to host the summer and winter Olympics. This 2010 photo shows skiers outside the National Stadium, but the city's 2022 Games bid will rely on natural snowfall augmented by artificial snow.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will tomorrow choose between Almaty in Kazakhstan and the Chinese capital Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Here is how the bids stack up:

BEIJING v ALMATY

The Chinese capital has all the resources of the world's second-biggest economy and the diplomatic clout of an emerging superpower. Beijing can boast a successful 2008 Olympics and wants to become the first city to hold both the summer and winter Games. It is the strong favourite even though the venues are spread far and wide and there will be a heavy reliance on artificial snow.

The Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan, home to just 16 million, has become an oil power. Like the region's other states. it wants major sporting events to draw international attention. It held the Winter Asian Games in 2011 and will stage the Winter University Games in 2017. All the venues are within 33km of Almaty and the government can say that snow at the Games will be "real".

BUDGET

After Russia spent more than US$50 billion (S$68.2 billion) on the 2014 Sochi Winter Games, IOC president Thomas Bach began to place great emphasis on a sustainable Olympics.

Beijing, by comparison, estimated US$3.06 billion - US$1.55 billion on operating the Games and US$1.51 billion on construction, including three Olympic villages. The Chinese estimate does not include huge projects such as a US$5 billion, 200km high-speed railway from Beijing to Zhangjiakou, the city which would serve some of the mountain venues. The Alpine skiing will be at Yanqing, 90km north-west of Beijing, on sites that are not yet built.

Almaty estimates that it will spend US$3.6 billion, with US$1.75 billion on running the Games and US$1.85 billion on construction. An estimated 58 per cent of the construction will be paid for by the state. The three Olympic villages would become public housing after the Games.

VENUES

Beijing says six of the competition venues are ready and six are being built or will be built. Speed skating, figure skating, ice hockey and curling will take place in Beijing, which will also hold the opening ceremony.

There is little snow in the capital, so Alpine skiing, ski-jumping, snowboarding and Nordic skiing will be located at Yanqing and Zhangjiakou.

China has promised that transport will not be a problem and that the new development will spark a fledgling winter sports industry in the country.

Almaty has trumpeted its compact Olympic plan, with many of the venues already built or renovated from the 2011 Asian Winter Games. The Baluan Sholak sports centre dates from 1967 but was modernised in 2011. The bid committee says that no competition will be more than 35km from an Olympic village and no athlete will have to travel more than 35 minutes to compete.

They say eight of the 14 venues are already built and three will be built even if Almaty does not get the Games. Ice hockey, figure skating, short-track speed skating, luge, bobsleigh, ski-jumping and curling will be in Almaty. Skiing, snowboard events and traditional speed skating will be at the Ak Bulak, Tabagan and Medeu mountain venues.

SPECTATORS

Almaty and Beijing both hope to sell about two million tickets. The Kazakh city is guaranteeing 25,000 hotel rooms for 2022, the Chinese capital 42,000.

WHAT THE IOC SAID

The IOC has identified risks in both locations that could hurt their chances of a successful bid.

It cited Almaty's reliance on oil revenues: "Economic factors, including low oil prices and exchange rate issues, could negatively impact... preparations and the government's capacity to provide financial and other support."

Beijing drew attention for its potential lack of snow and "substantial reliance on snowmaking in all mountain venues... there could be no snow... especially in Yanqing, impacting the visual perception of the snow sports setting."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 30, 2015, with the headline 'Beijing on brink of history, favoured to win 2022 Winter Olympics'. Print Edition | Subscribe