KUALA LUMPUR • China celebrated a slice of history yesterday, after Beijing was chosen by the International Olympic Committee to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.
The Chinese capital beat Kazakhstan's Almaty 44-40 in a vote among IOC members in Kuala Lumpur, becoming the first city to be awarded both the summer and winter Games.
"This day will go down in history," Beijing mayor Wang Anshun said. "In 120 years, this is unprecedented. We are overwhelmed."
China's basketball legend Yao Ming and Sports Minister Liu Peng leapt to their feet in joy when IOC president Thomas Bach announced the result.
Over in Beijing and co-host Zhangjiakou, choreographed celebrations followed the happy news as performers erupted into dancing and flag-waving.
It was a result that was expected.
This day will go down in history. In 120 years, this is unprecedented. We are overwhelmed.
WANG ANSHUN Beijing major on the Chinese capital making history as the first city to host both the winter and summer Games
If anything, the narrow margin of victory was a surprise, with Kazakhstan Prime Minister Karim Massimov making a big impression at the final presentation.
"Almaty is a golden opportunity to show smaller, advancing nations can host the Games," he reminded the members in a powerful, moving speech.
But the IOC, grappling with the effects of a global economic crisis and facing dwindling interest from countries wanting to host the Olympics, opted for Beijing.
The choice was a solid vote for the financial and organisational security of China.
It will not be the picture postcard Winter Olympics, with concerns about a lack of natural snow.
It will be a fragmented Games split between the sprawling capital city and two mountain venues almost an hour away.
By contrast, Kazakhstan had promised a winter wonderland at the foot of the Tian Shan mountains but the IOC was in no mood for any more risks.
"I think the IOC chose certainty in this vote," IOC vice-president Craig Reedie said.
"We know how the Chinese work. There is a familiarity."
China's pragmatic approach of using its experience from hosting the 2008 Summer Games and many of the existing venues from that event, paid off.
Its Games budget is US$3.06 billion (S$4.2 billion).
Four of the six initial 2022 Games bidders dropped out mid-race over financial concerns or a lack of support, some scared off by the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics' US$51 billion price tag.
The IOC had initially attempted to play down the problem saying two good bids were left, before pushing through reforms in December aimed at making future bidding more attractive and the Games cheaper and a more lucrative prospect for host cities.
The withdrawal of Boston from the 2024 summer Games bid race earlier this week triggered even more alarm bells among the IOC.
Bach was visibly irritated by the further damage done to his organisation's prime product.
An angry attack on Boston and its "broken promises" on Wednesday hinted at which way the 2022 decision would go, with the IOC desperate for some stability.
"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," the Beijing Bid Committee said in a statement.
"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."
The decision to go with China reaffirmed the shifting power-base of world sport to Asia. South Korea's Pyeongchang will host the 2018 Winter Games and Tokyo the 2020 Summer Olympics.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE