Why Beijing was chosen to host the 2022 Winter Olympics

Performers cheer ahead of IOC's announcement of the winner city for the 2022 winter Olympics bid on July 31, 2015.
Performers cheer ahead of IOC's announcement of the winner city for the 2022 winter Olympics bid on July 31, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS

It may not be the picture-perfect, postcard view of the Winter Olympics, with mountains blanketed by deep white snow. Nevertheless, the choice of Beijing to stage the 2022 Games spoke volumes of the faith and trust in China by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Issues of a lack of real snow and human rights controversies may have hogged the headlines in the days leading up to the secret vote in Kuala Lumpur's convention centre, but these did little to deter the IOC.

The Straits Times examines some of the main reasons which swung the vote in Beijing's favour over the former Kazak capital of Almaty.

1. Stability and strength of Chinese economy

Four of the six initial 2022 Winter Games bidders - the European cities of Oslo, Stockholm, Krakow and Lviv - dropped out mid-race over financial concerns or a lack of support, some scared off by the 2014 Sochi winter Olympics' US$51 billion (S$70 billion) price tag.


The withdrawal of Boston earlier this week from the 2024 Summer Games bid race, citing the huge cost of hosting, triggered even more alarm bells among the IOC as its prime products were being undermined.

With Almaty and Kazakstan's economy largely dependent on fluctuating oil prices, the IOC were not prepared to take a risk on the central Asian state.

It was desperate for some stability and China, with all the resources of the world's second-biggest economy and the diplomatic clout of an emerging superpower, was a far too attractive bet for the IOC.

2. Beijing's tried and tested formula

Participants waving Chinese national flags and Beijing 2022 Olympic flags attend a rehearsal of a performance in Beijing, China, July 30, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

Delays have become a byword for the Olympics in recent years. Next year's Rio Summer Games faces a race against the clock to get itself ready and issues like contaminated waters for the sailing events has created a headache for organisers.

Construction delays and political in-fighting have also plagued the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games, while Tokyo recently shelved its original plans for a flagship stadium for the 2020 Summer Games.

As much as the IOC liked Almaty's compact concept which scored points during a presentation in June, the familiarity of returning to Beijing was too great for the Olympic leaders.

As host of the 2008 Summer Games, the Chinese city has experience and a track record of delivering on commitments to the IOC.

Beijing will spend US$3.06 billion to organise the 24th Winter Games and re-use 11 venues from the 2008 Games - which was estimated to have cost more than US$40 billion to stage - including the Bird's Nest Stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies, the Water Cube aquatics centre for curling, and the Wukesong Stadium (where the basketball competition was held) will be covered in ice and turned into an ice hockey rink.

3. Huge potential for growth

By backing Beijing, the IOC is guaranteed another hugely successful Olympics in financial terms while also tapping into a growing Chinese middle class eager to try out winter sports.

In the past two decades, the number of ski resorts in China has grown from less than 10 to more than 500. Chinese officials believe that hosting the 2022 Winter Games will ignite "a winter sports passion" that will help build a £535 million (S$1.15 billion) industry in the country by 2025 and create millions of jobs.

More than one million Chinese teenagers were now ice skating regularly, noted Chinese Olympic Committee president Liu Peng. Meanwhile, Beijing's mayor Wang Anshun had previously claimed close to 95 per cent of the country supported the 2022 Olympic campaign.

4. The promise of a cleaner and greener Beijing

Cars drive along a street on a polluted day in Beijing on July 24, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

The final factor that aided Beijing's winning bid was its pledge to tackle the toxic air pollution that often enshrouds the capital.

Mayor Wang Anshun had told IOC delegates prior to the announcement that huge steps had been taken since his city hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics, with one million high-emissions vehicles forced from its roads.

"All our efforts are moving Beijing towards a clean energy future," he said.

This is in line with IOC president Thomas Bach's recent reforms aiming to bring down the cost and administrative burden of hosting the Games as well as making them more environmentally friendly.