All the talk in this part of the world is how China is bound to win the 2022 Olympics, given that its only rival in this two-horse race is so nondescript that many haven’t even heard of it, let alone be able to place it on a map (for the record, Almaty is in Kazakhstan, only a few hundred miles from the Chinese border).
But there is one very obvious hurdle here: this is a Winter Games, and while Almaty was described in the IOC’s evaluation commission report (ECR) as “a winter sports city, with easy access to the mountains and some world-class winter sports venues”, check out pictures from the same ECR of where China’s bid plans to hold the skiing event:
Not a whole lot of snow, right? But China can get very hot in the summer, I hear you cry. The trouble is, these pictures were taken in January of this year, smack in the middle of cold season. Here is another one:
Man-made snow is a necessity at many ski resorts all around the world, but in a country where some have argued that the water shortage could be the largest problem facing China today, think about what would be involved to ship that much water up to these mountains to ensure that the Games would be a success. I have no doubt that China could do it, but it’s not hard to construct a case to vote against China based on environmental concerns alone.
That’s the bad news.
The good news for China is that it will very likely be awarded the Games for 2022. President Xi Jinping has promised that 300 million Chinese would be involved in winter sports should the country get another Olympics. That number seems impossibly high, but if even a tenth of that number were in fact to take up curling, skiing and ice hockey, it would be a game changer for the winter sports industry.
If you are the IOC, entrusted with safeguarding the future of the Winter Games in a modern world where ever more niche sports are crowding the market, that, surely, is reason enough to vote for Beijing.
I’ll write more on the nitty gritty of the bid details in a future post (here), but that is a summary for now.