The sporting authorities from the city of Beijing can’t be faulted for a lack of ambition.
Earlier this month the Chinese capital announced it had submitted a bid to host the winter Olympics in 2022. If it is successful, Beijing will be the first city in history to host both the summer and winter Olympics.
Munich, Helsinki and Montreal have also tried to win both events – and failed. Stockholm is having a go for the double this year too. But all of these cities waited for a respectable period (decades, in fact) between hosting one Olympiad and then bidding for another.
Not so in the case of Beijing, which hosted China’s first Olympics in the summer of 2008 and now seems keen to snag its second Games too.
The city’s only concession to letting others have a go at hosting is an agreement to split the bid with Zhangjiakou, a city 200km away in Hebei province.
The plan, says China’s Olympic Committee, is to stage the arena-based disciplines like figure skating and ice hockey in Beijing but skiing events in Zhangjiakou, which sits at the base of two mountain ranges.
The two cities will be connected by a high-speed rail link currently under construction. Travel time will be 40 minutes, Xinhua reports.
Unlike Beijing’s applications to host the summer Olympics in 2000 and 2008 – the latest bid seems to have met with a lot of local negativity, not least because of the city’s perceived inability to share.
“Typical, Beijing is hogging all the resources!” wrote one netizen on Sina Weibo.
The most outspoken criticism came from Harbin and Changchun in China’s far northeast. Harbin bid for the winter Games in 2010 and tried (but failed) to get approval to bid again for the 2018 Games.
“If anyone should get this it is Harbin,” wrote one netizen. “We all supported Beijing when it was trying,” he added.
The capital is hoping that its prior experience and sporting infrastructure will give it an edge, Xinhua said.
But officials acknowledged that the bid is a long shot. That’s because another Asian nation, South Korea, is hosting the event in 2018. Mention it quietly, but Beijing’s air has deteriorated badly since 2008 too.
The international sporting authorities can’t always be predicted to make the sensible choice (FIFA thinking that 120 degree heat in Qatar isn’t an issue, for instance). But it’s hard to see why the Interntional Olympic Committee would rush back to Beijing when the weekly news flow from the city shows people walking around in protective masks. The Chinese government’s own data cites airborne pollution as one of the reasons for lung cancer cases rising 56% over the last decade in Beijing too. Awful air has also been cited as the primary reason for a 50% drop in tourists over the first three quarters of this year, versus 2012.
Zhangjiakou isn’t without problems as a venue either. Sitting just to the south of the Gobi desert, the area receives very little snow during the winter and the resorts that currently exist rely on snow machines to cover the slopes. But with water levels in the area dangerously low (see WiC212 for more on the country’s withering northern greenbelt) there are environmental grounds for resisting further development of the local ski industry.
Despite this, a few hopeful souls have suggested that a successful bid might force the government to sort some of these issues out.
“To be honest I don’t care about the Olympics,” one Beijinger admitted online. “But if it means we get clean air, then I am all for it.”
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