By STEPHEN WADE
BEIJING (AP) — No one considers Beijing a winter sports capital. So why is the sprawling city – world famous for roast duck, maze-like “hutong” courtyard neighborhoods and its fight against air pollution – hosting the Winter Olympics? These Games come just 13 and a half years after the extravagant Summer Games of 2008.
And why are the Winter Olympics based in such an urban landscape?
There is a simple answer. Potential hosts in Europe – up to six, including favorites like Norway and Sweden – dropped out following the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The $51 billion price tag for Sochi also scared off future bidders.
When the IOC voted in 2015 on a host for 2022, the only remaining candidates were Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan. The IOC narrowly chose Beijing in a 44-40 vote.
WHY ARE THE WINTER OLYMPIC GAMES HARD TO SELL?
It’s a question of money. Small countries in Europe will not foot the bill, and taxpayers have a say in many Western democracies too.
St. Moritz, Switzerland, and Munich, Germany — two regions with potentially strong 2022 bids — have been rejected by the public in voter referenda. The German rejection was a blow to International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, who hails from Germany.
It should also be noted that the headquarters of the IOC is in Switzerland.
Krakow, Poland, and Lviv, Ukraine, also withdrew their offers. But those who suffered are Oslo, Norway and Stockholm, Sweden, which pulled out because of cost or politics. In Norway, a lawmaker was angered during the bid process by reported requests from the IOC to include a cocktail party with Norway’s king as part of Games protocol.
Bach acknowledged in a 2014 interview that the Winter Olympics were a tough sell.
“The number of candidates for the winter is already very limited by geography,” he said. “Furthermore, we cannot forget that these are difficult times for the global economy.”
WHERE WILL THE WINTER GAMES GO?
The 2026 Winter Olympics have been awarded to Milan-Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. The IOC is delighted to return to a traditional European winter venue after the last three Winter Games in Sochi, Pyeongchang, South Korea and Beijing.
The 2030 Winter Games have yet to be awarded. But Barcelona, another urban city, a former host of the Summer Games, is being considered. The snow part would take place in the Pyrenees. The bid is likely to have strong backing at the IOC, where Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr. is an influential member and a native of Barcelona. His father was a long-time president of the IOC.
The other best contender for 2030 is probably Sapporo, Japan, which hosted the Winter Games in 1972. The IOC owes Japan a favor after successfully completing the 2020 Summer Olympics despite being a year behind schedule. in relation to the pandemic. The delay likely cost Japan another $2 billion.
HOW ARE HOST CITIES CHOSEN?
As part of the IOC’s new venue selection process, the roughly 100 IOC members no longer vote for host cities. The choice is now made by the management led by Bach.
Bach said at the time that the bidding process was producing too many “losers”, with cities spending millions on unsuccessful bids. In reality, Bach wanted to control the destination of the Games as the IOC now tries to emphasize cities that already have venues and hotels in place. This often means urban areas – or former host cities, which is also reminiscent of Beijing.
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