Beijing was awarded the 2022 Winter Olympics on Friday, capitalizing on its previous 2008 Summer Games experience and defying concerns about its air quality and lack of natural snow.
This makes the Chinese capital the first city to host both Summer and Winter Olympics.
“Just as with the Beijing 2008 Summer Games, the Olympic family has put its faith in Beijing again to deliver the athlete-centered, sustainable and economical Games we have promised,” the Beijing bid committee said in a statement. “This will be a memorable event at the foot of the Great Wall for the whole Olympic family, the athletes and the spectators that will further enhance the tremendous potential to grow winter sports in our country, in Asia and around the world.”
Kazakhstan narrowly missed becoming the first Central Asian country to host an Olympics, despite its winter and nature credentials – waist-deep snow, snow-capped mountains and lush forests.
Beijing defeated Almaty, 44-40, in a secret ballot during meetings of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Oslo, Norway dropped out of the bidding process last year, citing worries over costs and the lack of popular support, leaving just Beijing and the Kazakhstan capital. Other cities that dropped out of the race early included Stockholm, Sweden; Munich, Germany; Davos/St. Moritz, Switzerland; and Krakow, Poland.
The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics will mark a third consecutive Olympics in an Asian nation, following the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea and the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, Japan.
As China drummed up support at home to host the games, activists groups called on the IOC to reject the Chinese bid, saying that China’s human rights record actually worsened as a result of the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.
Beijing had also been on the defensive in the final days of the campaign in the face of mounting concerns over toxic air pollution and snow conditions.
Beijing’s Mayor Wang Anshun gave IOC delegates assurances that major steps had been taken since his city hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics, with a series of coal power plants closed to bring back the city's blue skies and white clouds. “All our efforts are moving Beijing towards a clean-energy future,” Mr. Wang said.
The 2022 Beijing Winter games, which will rely extensively on man-made snow, "will be split between three Olympic sites: one in the city of Zhangjiakou, 125 miles from Beijing in the Hebei province; another in Yanqing, a mountainous region to Beijing’s north-west; and a third in China’s sprawling capital itself," The Guardian reports.