The Beijing Winter Olympics begin in just two months and are now the target of a diplomatic boycott by the United States, which is likely to be followed by others.
So how did Beijing land in the Winter Olympics, shortly after hosting the Summer Olympics in 2008? It will become the first city in Olympic history to host both the Winter and Summer Games.
The answer is simple. Europe’s potential cities – six – dropped out of the bid in the wake of a doping-scam at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The widely advertised price tag of $51 billion for Sochi scared off even future bidders.
When it went through the voting phase at the 2015 meetings in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the International Olympic Committee was left with only two candidates: Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan.
Beijing won narrowly 44-40, a close vote that some at the time suggested may have been irregularities in voting. IOC President Thomas Bach reacted sharply to this suggestion.
Which cities or regions have been withdrawn from the 2022 bidding race?
This is a long list of rejections from cities across Europe. Oslo and Stockholm are two high-profile cities that dropped out during the bidding process. They were joined by Krakow, Poland and Lviv, Ukraine, which also withdrew the bid.
Two other regions with potentially strong bids – St Moritz, Switzerland and Munich, Germany – were rejected by the public in a voter referendum. The German rejection was a severe blow to Bach, who is from Germany. It is also worth mentioning that the IOC is headquartered in Switzerland.
Oslo and Stockholm, perhaps regarded as the preferred venues as the IOC attempted to return the Olympics to traditional European winter venues, both dropped out due to cost and politics.
Bach admitted in a 2014 interview at the time that the Winter Olympics were a tough sell.
“The number of candidates for winter is already very limited by geography,” he said. “Also we cannot forget that this is a challenging time with respect to the world economy.”
Beijing or Almaty?
The election for IOC members came down to two authoritarian governments that required no public vote, and also had some constraints on spending: Beijing and Almaty. Beijing spent more than $40 billion on the 2008 Summer Olympics.
In promoting their proposals, the organizers in Almaty at the time stated that 79% supported the bid. Beijing said 94.8% were in favor in China.
Almaty tried to win the vote, reminding that it was a winter sports city surrounded by mountains and natural snow. It was a dig in Beijing, which has no winter sports tradition and has little natural snow in the areas chosen for skiing.
Beijing and some members of the IOC protested that skiers actually preferred artificial snow. The IOC also saw Beijing as a great opportunity for winter-sports trade.
Beijing won by four votes, which was said to be much closer than expected. Members chose what they considered to be a less risky option, which has not turned out to be that way.
“It’s a really safe option,” IOC President Bach said at the time. “We know that China will deliver on its promises.”
The IOC’s choice was sharply criticized by human rights groups at the time, stating that the 2008 Olympics had not improved the rights position. in China.
What was the result?
Getting down to two candidates – neither the top choice – stunned the IOC. This was part of the reason why the IOC no longer goes through a lengthy bidding process to select host cities. Bach said at the time that the bidding process produced too many “losers”.
Furthermore, it was embarrassing for the IOC to explain why voters refused the Olympics – especially the smaller Winter Games. The bidding process was also marred by scandals surrounding the prize for the 2016 and 2020 Summer Olympics, in which an IOC member was allegedly bribed for their votes.
The 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games bid was also hit by scandal.
Under the new IOC seat selection process, about 100 IOC members no longer vote. The election is now carried out by the leadership led by Bach. The IOC has already selected the venues for the Olympics by 2032.
They are: 2024 Paris; 2026 Milan-Cortina, Italy; 2028 Los Angeles; 2032 Brisbane, Australia. The only open slot is the 2030 Winter Olympics, in which Japan’s Sapporo appears to be the prime candidate. The IOC has not indicated when this election will be held.
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