Olympics: Beijing edges 2022 Winter Games vote to make Olympic history
Beijing on Friday narrowly won an IOC vote for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games that secured its place in sporting history
Lumpur: Beijing on Friday narrowly won an IOC vote for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games that secured its place in sporting history. The Chinese capital beat Almaty in Kazakhstan by just 44 votes to 40, with one abstention, to become the first city to be awarded the summer and winter Games.
Beijing held the summer Olympics in 2008 in what was then seen as China sealing its place on the world stage as an emerging superpower. This time it had been the strong favourite, presenting itself as a safe pair of hands against underdog Almaty. "We represent the safest and most realistic choice," said Beijing's mayor Wang Anshun. But the former capital of the Central Asian republic ate into China's support on the International Olympic Committee with an impressive "Keeping It Real" campaign that played on Beijing's reliance on artificial snow and the vast distances between its venues.
China's basketball legend Yao Ming and Sports Minister Liu Peng leaped to their feet in joy when IOC president Thomas Bach announced the result at a special session in Kuala Lumpur.
IOC director general Christophe De Kepper said there were doubts about the "integrity" of the results given by the tablets used for the vote. But it held up the result and in Beijing performers and uniformed volunteers also erupted into dancing and flag-waving joy as the Chinese capital was named.- Vote surprise - "Finally - we won, but it was not easy," Yao acknowledged. "I was very confident about this campaign, but when the moment came I was still very excited about what we have done," the former Houston Rockets center told reporters.
The result surprised many IOC members. "I always said Almaty would get more support than people had expected, but I never thought it would be that close," said Craig Reedie, a British member of the IOC. He said IOC voters had been impressed by the final presentation by Kazakh prime minister Karim Massimov.
Others said they still preferred the assurances offered by China's communist government against oil-rich Kazakhstan which had been making its second bid for the Winter Olympics. China's President Xi Jinping promised rock solid government support for Beijing if it was chosen. "Let me assure you that if you choose Beijing, the Chinese people will present to the world a fantastic, extraordinary and excellent Olympic Winter Games," Xi said in a video message to the IOC meeting.
Some of Beijing's 2008 venues, including its iconic Bird's Nest national stadium will be reused for the 2022 Games. But it will also make widespread use of machine-made snow for outdoor events and some of the venues are 200 kilometres (125 miles) from Beijing.
All of Almaty's venues are within 30 kilometres (18 miles) of the city, which the delegation portrayed as a "winter wonderland" with abundant natural snow. Beijing has said it will spend $3.06 billion on running the Games and special infrastructure for the event. That does not include $5 billion for a high-speed train link from Beijing to Zhangjiakou, where many mountain events will be held.
Kazakhstan, which became independent from the former Soviet Union in 1991 but is still run by an authoritarian president, had sought the Games as a way to stamp its place on the world map. "We are a golden opportunity to prove that smaller advancing nations can successfully host the Olympic Games," Kazakhstan's prime minister told the IOC. Almaty would stage "a Games that are centred on the needs of athletes and sport, not on the needs of (the) host country's global image", said Andrey Kryukov, vice chairman of the Almaty bid committee in a veiled dig at China.
Both countries' human rights records have been condemned by activist groups, but no mention of rights was made in the IOC debate. Six cities were originally in the race to follow 2018 hosts Pyeongchang in South Korea. But after Russia spent more than $50 billion to stage the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Oslo, Stockholm, Krakow in Poland and Lviv in Ukraine all withdrew because of cost fears and local politics.