Beijing launches final pitch for Winter Games

Kuala Lumpur, July 27

Beijing Olympic officials on Monday shrugged off questions over snow levels and spread-out venues in their 2022 Winter Games bid as they launched their final pitch in Malaysia ahead of an IOC vote this week.

The hosting of the 2022 Games is a two-horse race between Beijing and Almaty in Kazakhstan, with the winner decided on Friday in a secret International Olympic Committee ballot in Kuala Lumpur. The Chinese capital is overwhelmingly favoured, but Almaty has gained ground by promising plentiful natural snow and concentration of facilities near the city. But Beijing bid officials said the lack of snow in arid northern China and far-flung venues would not be a problem.

“We might not have snowfall several metres deep like you have in other countries but you can’t have a Winter Olympics and make it successful just by virtue of having deep snow,” Beijing 2022 committee spokeswoman Wang Hui told reporters in Kuala Lumpur. “However, in the unlikely event of extreme weather conditions, we have the capacity to rely on artificial snow-making and we will fully comply with all snow requirements.”

Almaty played on China’s lack of snow with its “Keeping it Real” slogan, impressing IOC members who went on an inspection visit in June. But Wang said any winter sports event requires some level of artificial snow and that ample water was available. Chongli, where the Olympic village is proposed, is more than 160 kilometres from Beijing and some venues are 200 kilometres away.

By contrast, Almaty’s facilities would all be within 33 kilometres of the former capital. But Wang said China’s high-speed rail system would allow quick transportation between venues and that spread-out facilities would better encourage sustainable and lasting post-Games use of venues than if they were concentrated in one place. “We have two excellent candidates,” IOC president Thomas Bach said last week on a visit to Moscow. “The choice will not be easy.”

China, where participation in winter sports remains modest, hopes holding the 2022 games will inspire a new generation of Chinese to take them up. Previously there were six host candidates but Oslo, Stockholm, Krakow in Poland and Lviv in Ukraine withdrew because of public fears over the cost. Beijing and Almaty both say their budgets will be under $4 billion.