Almaty or Beijing? 2022 Winter Games host to be decided on Friday
On Friday, July 31 the International Olympic Committee will decide if the 2022 Winter Games will go to Almaty, Kazakhstan or Beijing, China.
Both candidate cities have their merits. Almaty has great proximity to venues and a tried and tested winter sports history. Heading east to Beijing, anyone who remembers the Games of 2008 knows that China can put on a show. The winner will be announced at approximately 5:50 a.m. ET. Here are a few notes on each of the candidates:
Almaty is Kazakhstan’s largest city and former capital. It was the joint host of the 2011 Asian Winter Games with Astana, the nation’s current capital city.
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There are roughly 1.5 million people living in Almaty, and it has many existing winter sports venues, all of it promising to be “within a 30-kilometre radius of the Olympic Village” according to its bid site.
Medeu Skating Oval is one of the gems in Almaty’s bid. The well-known, open-air, mountain-based speed skating arena would be covered with a new roof for the comfort of fans in 2022.
The scenic mountain views of Almaty will be complemented by new or revamped venues at or near the heart of the city, including the central stadium that will be redesigned to host opening and closing ceremonies. Curling fans will get a brand new venue two kilometres from Almaty. Clearly they’ve taken Canadian rowdiness into consideration.
Whether it gets the 2022 Winter Games or not, Almaty is already set to host the 2017 Winter Universiade, organized by the International University Sports Federation. Canada hosted the summer version in 1983 with Edmonton welcoming 2,400 university students from around the world.
Beijing first hosted an Olympic Games by beating out Toronto for the summertime honour in 2008, bringing the rings to the world’s most populous country for the first time. Beijing announced itself as Olympic host with a jaw-dropping Opening Ceremony.
Like it did in 2008, Bird’s Nest (China’s National Stadium) would once again host the opening and closing ceremonies of 2022, this time welcoming winter athletes.
Yanqing cluster, located about 75 kilometres from central Beijing (according to the bid site), would host the alpine skiing, along with sliding sports. Google has the distance at about 90km but proposals tend to get a bit creative.
Zhangjiakou cluster would be in for longer skiing events, which makes sense because it may require endurance for the nearly 200-kilometre trek from Beijing to this joint-host city for those interested in cross country, biathlon and ski jumping.
China has been on a Games spree since 2008. Harbin bid for the 2010 Winter Games that went to Vancouver. The northeastern city also applied for the 2012 Winter Youth Olympics but lost to Innsbruck, Austria. Nanjing brought China its first Youth Olympics, hosting young summer athletes in 2014.
And the winner is…
Well, we don’t know yet, of course, but if it goes to Almaty, then Kazakhstan will become an Olympic host for the first time. If the envelope to be opened by IOC president Thomas Bach reads Beijing, it will become the first city in history to host the Games both in summer and winter.
Bach made mention of either “first” and much more in an op-ed this week where he also outlined his vision for a more streamlined, affordable Olympic Games as directed in his Agenda 2020 vision. It’ll be a first for Bach too on Friday, having never previously announced an Olympic Games host as IOC president.