Why China won’t host the 2022 Winter Olympics – and knows it

There was stunning news out of China on Tuesday when it was revealed the Chinese Olympic Committee had recently submitted its bid to host the 2022 Winter Games, with events held in both the world famous city of Beijing (ice sports) and the ever so slightly less well-known city of Zhangjiakou (snow sports).

ImageZhangjiakou, in neighboring Hebei province, is about 100 miles/160 kms from the capital, with current transport links equating to a five-hour car journey, but a proposed high-speed rail link should cut that to just 40 minutes.

China is a growing winter sports power but faces some tough competition, notably from Oslo, host of the 1952 Winter Olympics, and Munich, which lost out to Pyeongchang for the 2018 Games. Other bids have either been launched by, or are expected to come from, Almaty (Kazakhstan), Krakow (Poland), Lviv (Ukraine) and Oestersund (Sweden). The deadline for bids is November 14.

ImageThis would be China’s first ever Winter Olympics, and second Olympics overall after Beijing hosted the summer version in 2008. The IOC will select the host city for 2022 in Kuala Lumpur in July 2015.

On paper, it doesn’t look good for China: the previous two Olympics (Pyeongchang 2018 and Tokyo 2020) will be in Asia and there would be an international outcry if a third straight Games took place on the continent. According to AFP, the president of the International Ski Federation (FIS) said earlier this year that Oslo is the frontrunner, but German Thomas Bach’s new reign as IOC President can only help Munich’s chances.

ImageIn addition, recent winning bids have lived by the motto “If at first you don’t succeed…” Tokyo, the 2020 host, failed in its attempt for the 2016 Games; Pyeongchang, the 2018 host, originally bid for both the 2010 and 2014 editions. Even Beijing, host in 2008, used its experience from its failed bid for the 2000 Olympics, and comments from Beijing Sports Bureau chief Li Yingchuan appear to suggest this is a set-up bid for 2026 or later:

“I would say anything is possible. Even if Beijing loses this time, we will continue our efforts in the future.”

The official Xinhua release also quoted Li as saying Pyeongchang is “a model to follow” for succeeding after three tries. This logic further strengthens Munich’s case (after its failed bid for the 2018 Games), but even though China has become accustomed to getting what it wants on the world stage, it also knows that, in certain cases, it has to play by the rules.

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