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IOC Membership and Regulations Combined to Reliably Hand Beijing 2022 Games
The Soldatskoe nordic venue, which would have hosted competitions had Almaty, Kazakhstan, won their bid for the 2022 Olympics. Unlike the city venue which hosted 2015 FIS World Junior and U23 Championships, Soldatskoe, here before the 2011 Asian Games, has lots of snow. (Photo: Matt Pauli)

The Soldatskoe nordic venue, which would have hosted competitions had Almaty, Kazakhstan, won their bid for the 2022 Olympics. Unlike the city venue which hosted 2015 FIS World Junior and U23 Championships, Soldatskoe, here before the 2011 Asian Games, has lots of snow. (Photo: Matt Pauli)

When Beijing won the bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics, some sports fans cheered, remembering happy memories of the 2008 Summer Olympics and smiling with certainty that China would deliver a Games.

Others raged and lamented, since Beijing is hardly known for its winter sports culture. The other candidate, Almaty, Kazakhstan, offered a ready-made winter experience with mountains and snow all packed in close to the city center.

What was clear was that it was not one of the most exciting or hyped-up host city elections in IOC history. Many people – fans and IOC members alike – weren’t particularly excited about either bid.

That was summed up by the fact that one IOC member abstained from voting: he or she traveled all the way to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, for the 128th IOC Session and then presumably decided, you know what, I don’t really care.

And it was reflected in the fact that Beijing won with just 44 votes from IOC members, the least votes received by a winning bid in the last two decades.

Meanwhile, this is what the alpine venues an hour outside of Beijing looked like in January 2015, according to the IOC Evaluation Commission.

In comparison, this is what the alpine venues an hour outside of Beijing looked like in January 2015, according to the IOC Evaluation Commission.

Not since 1993, when Sydney was elected host of the 2000 Summer Olympics, has a winning bid received less than 50 votes. And more recently, most have received many more: 60 for Tokyo to win the 2020 Summer Games, 63 for PyeongChang to win the 2018 Games, and 66 for Rio de Janeiro to win the 2016 Games.

Close margins, on the other hand, are not so rare. Sochi 2014 and London 2012 each won by four votes, just like Beijing 2022, while Vancouver 2010 had only three votes more than its rival, PyeongChang.

Part of the reason that the tally was so low is simply that there were fewer IOC members to vote. The IOC has a maximum of 115 members, but there are currently only 100. Election of new members is on the docket for the IOC session in Kuala Lumpur.

Of those 100 current members, just 85 were present to vote. The president does not vote unless needed for a tiebreak, while members from a bid country cannot vote in host city elections, which ruled out China’s three members.

Eleven more IOC members were “excused”, meaning that they did not come to the session in Kuala Lumpur at all.

By contrast, in the last decade between 95 and 109 IOC members have voted in all previous host city elections.

Winter Athlete Reps Did Not Vote

Among the excused members were two of the most recently-elected IOC members, and the only two who competed at the last winter Olympics.

Canada’s Hayley Wickenheiser, a hockey player who appeared in five Olympic Games, did not go to Kuala Lumpur. Instead she tweeted about the result.

Screen Shot 2015-08-01 at 2.49.44 PM

Yes, an interesting take… on an election that she could have taken part in. No reason for her absence was announced. She also did not attend the Candidate City presentations in Lausanne, Switzerland, in June.

Ole Einar Bjørndalen, the most successful winter Olympian of all time, also did not attend, citing the need to train for the upcoming World Cup season. The biathlete told Norwegian newspaper VG that he had discussed his absence with IOC President Thomas Bach.

The Norwegian men including Ole Einar Bjørndalen (right) celebrate after winning the 7.5 k team relay in Antholz, Italy, in January 2015. (Photo: IBU/ChristianManzoni)

The Norwegian men including Ole Einar Bjørndalen (right) celebrate after winning the 7.5 k team relay in Antholz, Italy, in January 2015. (Photo: IBU/ChristianManzoni)

“In agreement with the IOC President and the head of the IOC’s Athletes’ Commission I’m not going to attend the congress in Kuala Lumpur where Olympic organizers for 2022 will be selected,” he said. “However, I have given my professional input to the Executive Committees in discussions beforehand.”

Bjørndalen also skipped the Candidate City presentations in June, as well as the previous IOC session in December (which was during the 2015 World Cup season; he had already notched three top-tens in the first week of racing).

He told VG that he had gotten approval from both Bach and Claudia Bokel, the chair of the Athletes’ Commission, to focus on his career until April. The 41-year-old plans to retire after 2016 World Championships, which will be contested on his home turf in Oslo.

But at the moment, Bjørndalen also skipped the Blink summer ski festival in Norway, citing illness. He reportedly caught a respiratory bacterial infection.

Regardless of the reasons, it’s unfortunate that Bjørndalen and Wickenheiser could not attend the session and vote. They are the two IOC members with the most recent winter Olympic experience.

And, more than that, they competed at the Sochi Olympics – the very Games that the IOC is trying to leave far, far behind them with their Agenda 2020 reforms. The $51 billion price tag is something the IOC does not want to see as a precedent, and Bjørndalen and Wickenheiser are the only two IOC members to directly experience what that massive budget gave, or did not give, to the athletes.

It would seem that their opinions could have been informed, valuable, and from a unique perspective. Not only did they miss the vote, but by excusing themselves from the last two IOC sessions they also missed the chance to talk directly with other IOC members.

One might reasonably think that the IOC has little motivation to give more say to athletes, when the athletes elected to IOC membership do not attend IOC sessions or vote on important decisions – which is a pity, because the majority of athletes likely want more input and transparency in the way the biggest competitions of their careers are organized.

Lack of Visits to Bid Cities

Another problem is that after the 2002 Salt Lake City bidding scandal, IOC members are no longer allowed to visit bid cities.

Without being able to visit bid cities, IOC members must rely on other information to make their decisions. At the 2022 Candidate City presentations in Lausanne, Switzerland, in June, the Beijing room was both more attractive, and more packed.

Without being able to visit bid cities, IOC members must rely on other information to make their decisions. At the 2022 Candidate City presentations in Lausanne, Switzerland, in June, the Beijing room was both more attractive, and more packed.

That was because before 2002, several IOC members had to resign after it was revealed that they had received special treatment from the organizing committee in an attempt to earn votes.

The change in policy likely helped clean up some corruption in the IOC. But it creates problems for IOC members trying to decide where the Olympics should be held: all they have to base their decision on is what they have read and seen, be it from the IOC’s own Evaluation Commission or from the media.

This would be bad enough if the playing field was equal, that is if no IOC members had ever visited any of the bid cities on their own.

But the field is far from equal. In the 2022 race, Beijing had the advantage of hosting the 2008 Olympics, meaning that almost all of the IOC members had been there. By contrast, they weren’t allowed to get the same feel for Almaty.

And even outside of sports situations, members were much more likely to have traveled to Beijing for business or leisure than they were to have seen Almaty.

That may change soon. Kazakhstan in 2012 became one of the 50 largest economies in the world. And buoyed by oil and natural gas production – the country is the third-largest non-OPEC supplier of energy to the European Union – Kazakhstan is aiming much higher by 2050.

But the fact remains, at this point, most people have not been to Almaty.

One group that has? The few journalists allowed to officially visit the two host city bid sites.

In the Beijing presentation room, the big committee was on hand to demonstrate through dioramas the vision of Games infrastructure. Is this the same as being able to see proposed sites in person?

In the Beijing presentation room, the big committee was on hand to demonstrate through dioramas the vision of Games infrastructure. Is this the same as being able to see proposed sites in person?

Robert Livingstone of GamesBids.com wrote that he was pleasantly surprised by Almaty, and that most of the lines touted by the bid committee that he had assumed were just PR exaggerations turned out to be true.

The opposite was the case in Beijing: when he visited in March, the time the Paralympic Games will be hosted, there was no snow in the mountains and the ski resorts were already closed for the season.

After the vote, Livingstone wrote, “Arguably I was in a much better position to cast a vote in the host city election than most of the members, but of course it doesn’t work that way… Shouldn’t the members experience the city and the facilities as they will expect the athletes to, especially if they want to verify the quality of the athlete experience? If IOC members shared my on-site experiences do you think at least two of them may have changed their votes to Almaty? I’m certain that would have been the case.”

Another illustration of the importance of site visits is how the Evaluation Commission members themselves voted: eight of the nine members preferred Almaty, according to Inside The Games.

But despite their reporting, the Evaluation Commission could not convince IOC members to reach the same conclusion.

Who is Voting?

So who are the people who are voting and, to some extent, ignoring the advice of the IOC commission which inspects potential host cities?

More than half of the members come from countries which have not won a winter Olympic medal in the last four cycles. And many countries which are successful at the winter Games – for example, Austria, the Czech Republic, Belarus, Finland, and Slovenia – have no IOC members at all.

Ten of the fifteen members who did not vote came from countries with strong winter sports programs. For example, not only did Bjørndalen not vote, but neither did the other Norwegian IOC member, Gerhard Heiberg, who led the 1994 Lillehammer Olympic Organizing Committee.

That meant that of the voting members left, 59% came from countries without a strong winter sports program.

countries

In terms of sports, some members are former international or Olympic athletes themselves, and others are longtime administrators, officials, and financiers of sport – or just businesspeople or royalty with an interest in sport.

Of those with a discernible sporting background, either as an athlete or as an administrator of a specific sport before they went on to organize national Olympic committees or international federations, just nine worked in winter sport. The rest come from a summer sports background.

And for snow sports, the number is even more grim. Of the 98 medal events in the 2014 Olympics, 61 were held on snow: biathlon, nordic sports, alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, and snowboarding.

That’s 62%.

But of the 100 current IOC members only Bjørndalen and Gian Franco Kasper, the head of the International Ski Federation, come from a ski background either as an athlete or an administrator.

That’s 2%.

It’s not to say that IOC members without a winter sports background are incapable of making decisions about where to host a winter Games. There are many factors which are common between all Olympics: financing, culture, convenience of venue layout, security that the Games will be delivered.

Beijing was an expert in some of those, for instance the economic backing of the Chinese government. And a lack of snow was not its only shortcoming in the bid process. For instance, the venues in Almaty were much closer together, a factor which reportedly swayed some voters. Easy access and having venues integrated to the city culture should be a focal concern when organizing a Games.

But with no winter sports experience, perhaps it’s easier for voters from a hot country to line up their priorities in terms of financing and the lucrative marketability of China’s enormous consumer base. These voters might not appreciate the extent to which skiers and snowboarders prefer real snow to the manufactured stuff.

Or, perhaps more importantly to the IOC, how competitions in a real mountain atmosphere are nicer to watch on television. Or how in some disciplines, an abundance of natural snow is much safer for competition than a combination of manmade slush and salted-up ice.

Meanwhile, the trend of IOC membership being generally out of balance with the number of medals awarded by sport isn’t just a winter sports problem. It persists when summer sports are added to the mix, too.

sports

And that’s not to say that IOC membership should track a country’s Olympic success. After all, the goal of the Olympic movement is inclusion and harmony, not domination by the likes of Russia, China, and the United States. Diversity is a good thing.

It’s also not to say that IOC membership should tightly track sports popularity. If nothing else, that would stifle creativity, continue to cut opportunities for smaller sports, and be difficult to adjust to as the Olympic sport lineup continually changes.

Members have far more to offer than simply their cultural or sports background. Financial or broadcast skills are certainly valuable to the IOC; so are perspectives on diversity and global challenges.

But it can’t help feeling like those most affected by the negative aspects of the Beijing 2022 bid were not represented at the table when it came time to vote. The skiers and sliders who will be competing far outside Beijing, potentially to empty stadiums on manmade ice amongst brown hills, weren’t there. Nor were some countries with expertise in those events.

There are 15 spots open for new IOC members: how will they be filled? Only time will tell.

Blink Wrap-Up: Crawford Tops Biathlon Finale, Northug Happy with Fitness, Video, & More
Canada's Rosanna Crawford atop the podium at the Blink festival. Her win in the biathlon final netted her 10,000 Norwegian crowns, equivalent to about $1,600 Canadian. (Photo: Matthias Ahrens)

Canada’s Rosanna Crawford atop the podium at the Blink festival. Her win in the biathlon final netted her 10,000 Norwegian crowns, equivalent to about $1,600 Canadian. Dorothea Wierer of Italy placed second and Ekaterina Yurlova of Russia third.  (Photo: Matthias Ahrens)

The Blink ski festival in Sandnes, Norway, continued today despite rain – so much rain that course volunteers were sweeping it off the streets and into storm drains using big pushbrooms.

“I was lucky that I only got rained on in the final, but over all it was a really wet day and you had to make sure you avoided some of the bigger puddles because they would really slow you down,” Canada’s Rosanna Crawford explained. “Not scary, I am pretty confident on downhills and corners, so I just went for it.”

So the show went on, with the stadium packed with fans cheering, waving flags, and clapping thundersticks. This is Norway, so a heavy rotation of electronic dance music kept the mood high.

(Want to get a taste of what it’s like, with a packed stadium in the city center? Even if you don’t have access to a Norwegian broadcast, you can watch. Almost all of the events are posted to this YouTube channel.)

For biathletes, on the schedule in this final day of competition were sprints: three laps around the short loop, with one prone and one standing shooting stage in the middle. With room for just 12 shooters on the range, the field was winnowed from quarterfinals to semifinals down to a final heat that took place at dusk.

Susan Dunklee came into the final shooting of the Blink festival in first place, but ended up fourth on the day.

Susan Dunklee came into the final shooting of the Blink festival in first place, but ended up fourth on the day.

In the women’s final, 2015 World Champion Katja Yurlova of Russia was in the lead after the prone stage. But Dorothea Wierer of Italy and American Susan Dunklee were hot on her heels. Then on the city loop, Dunklee put in a big move to go to the front.

Once she reached the range, though, she couldn’t stay there. Every racer missed at least one shot, but again Yurlova hit the trails first. Canada’s Rosanna Crawford was right behind her, and then passed her early on the final loop.

“Just like some people know they are great at climbing hills, I know I can rock a fast two skate!” she wrote in an email. “I wanted to make sure I had a bit of a space going in the final stretch and it felt like the best place to make my move. This course is where being tall and having lots of power can pay off.”

Crawford pulled away and never looked back. Her lead grew and grew until she crossed the finish line with a bow, a winning the sprint final in her very first trip to the Blink festival.

“It’s pretty exciting,” Crawford said in a finish-line interview with Norwegian broadcaster NRK. “To finish off with a win was great. But this doesn’t mean much considering the winter – if only we had eight-minute races, I’d be very happy!”

Crawford noted that while the Lysebotn Opp was not so well suited to her, this flat, fast rollerski course was.

“That’s the beauty of cross country racing, there are 3 different techniques you need to be good at,” she wrote. “Just like the up hill, we won’t ever encounter a course like this one on the World Cup. I was also able to catch a lot of girls on the range with some fast shooting.”

Wierer passed Yurlova as well to secure second place, while Dunklee finished fourth, +6.7. Canada’s Megan Heinicke finished eighth in the final, +30.4.

Bracket results

In the men’s competition, Lowell Bailey of the United States was strong early, winning his semifinal in dominant fashion; Emil Hegle Svendsen was second, 9.4 seconds back.

“It’s great to be here,” Bailey said in an interview with NRK after the semifinal. “This is an awesome competition. The best guys in the world are here and it’s a great way to check and see where we’re at with the training.”

Teammate Leif Nordgren finished third in his semifinal to also earn a trip to the final. Canadians Brendan Green and Nathan Smith missed the cut.

In the final, young Norwegian Vetle Gurigard was full of confidence after decimating Nordgren’s semifinal. He went out hard and led at a fast pace, before stumbling on the range. After two shootings, it was a perhaps predictable duo of Martin Fourcade of France and Tarjei Bø of Norway who left together in the lead.

They continuously upped the pace over the last loop of skiing, with Bø trying and mostly failing to pass Fourcade. After rounding the final corner into the finishing straight he finally got his chance, and laid down a fast sprint to leave the Frenchman in the dust.

Still, he has his eyes on bigger prizes in the upcoming season.

“It’s never bad to be good,” Bø told Stavanger’s Aftenbladet newspaper. “But it is always best to be good in the winter.”

Bailey and Nordgren ended up seventh and eighth, 27 and 42 seconds back, respectively.

Bracket results

Sprints were also on the schedule for cross-country. After winning Friday’s mass start, Barbro Kvåle made it two in a row by winning the women’s sprint on Sunday, this time by one second over Renate Bergset Tjetland, also of Norway. Anikken Gjerde Alnaes rounded out the podium for Norway, with Aino Kaisa Saarinen fourth and the first non-native.

Bracket results

In the men’s sprint, however, Calle Halfvarsson of Sweden was the only non-Norwegian but didn’t let it hold him back. He topped all his Norwegian rivals, with Sindre Bjørnestad Skar and Gjøran Tefre finishing second and third, both 0.2 seconds back.

“It felt good and I’m happy to win,” Halfvarsson told NRK.

Petter Northug broke a pole and finished last in the final. But he was uncharacteristically calm and diplomatic after the race.

“I lost this sprint when I destroyed my pole partway,” he told Aftenbladet. “But so it is with sprint, it’s part of the game that poles can break. In the finals, it was unfortunately my turn to have the accident.”

In general, Northug, who won the mass start on Friday, was happy with his form. Just days before Blink began he had told the media that he was out of shape, a concept that seemed to be confirmed when he finished the 7k hill climb on Thursday in 72nd place.

“The body worked very well both yesterday in the mass start and in the current sprint,” he told Aftenbladet. “And I am so impressed by this event, every single time I have been here has been fantastic.”

Bracket results

Casting a Wider Net: ‘International Biathlon Team’ Shares Shooting Tactics in Sirdal
The "International Biathlon Team" camp in Sirdal, Norway, with (front left to right) Fanny Well Strand Horn, Tiril Eckhoff, Elise Ringen, and Rosanna Crawford, and (back left to right) Brendan Green, Megan Heinicke, Sinnoeve Solemdal, Ekatarina Yurlova, Kaisa Mäkäräinen, Susan Dunklee, Marte Olsbu, and Nathan Smith. (Photo: Matthias Ahrens)

The “International Biathlon Team” camp in front of the 30-point range at the sports school in Sirdal, Norway, with (front left to right) Norway’s Fanny Welle-Strand Horn, Tiril Eckhoff, and Elise Ringen, and Canada’s Rosanna Crawford, and (back left to right) Canada’s Brendan Green and Megan Heinicke, Norway’s Sinnøve Solemdal, Russia’s Ekatarina Yurlova, Finland’s Kaisa Mäkäräinen, American Susan Dunklee, Norway’s Marte Olsbu, and Canada’s Nathan Smith. (Photo: Matthias Ahrens)

It all started two years ago when Biathlon Canada’s head coach Matthias Ahrens struck up a conversation with highland-cow farmer Frode Oftedal at the World Cup in Oslo, Norway. There, Oftedal, also a biathlon enthusiast, invited the Canadians to come to Sirdal, Norway, for a training camp with the French team. The French biathletes had been returning to the sports school there to train since 2002 — because of Oftedal.

For Canada, the possibility became reality this spring when Ahrens asked Norwegian biathlon coach Arne Idland whether his A-team athletes (Rosanna Crawford, Megan Heinicke, Brendan Green, and Nathan Smith) could participate in the Blink rollerski festival in August. They could, and would, but before that, why not arrange a shooting camp with Norwegian personal shooting coach Joar Himle? Last year, the Canadians held a camp with Himle’s expertise at home in Canmore, Alberta. This time, they’d continue learning from him in Norway.

Three non-Canadians — Russia’s 2015 world champion Ekaterina “Katja” Yurlova, Finland’s Kaisa Mäkäräinen and American Susan Dunklee — caught wind of the camp and asked Himle if they could join, Ahrens explained in an email.

Of course they could, and the self-proclaimed International Biathlon Team was born. In the last few months before the nine-day camp in late July, Ahrens contacted the participants from various nations — including Norway and France — to coordinate workouts.

“At the end of the year World Cup party in Khanty-Mansiysk, I met Joar Himle,” Dunklee explained in an email. “He mentioned that he might put together an international women’s shooting training camp this summer around the Blink Festival. I was immediately interested.”

The International Biathlon Team enjoys some leisure time during a volleyball match at the sports school in Sirdal, Norway. (Photo: Matthias Ahrens)

The “International Biathlon Team” enjoys some leisure time during a volleyball match at the sports school in Sirdal, Norway. (Photo: Matthias Ahrens)

Tonstad, the site of the Sirdal sports school where the athletes would stay and train, was just a short drive from Sandnes, where Blink is held annually. For Dunklee and other Blink participants, such as Crawford, Heinicke, Green, and Smith, that made it an easy choice for a training venue before Blink.

“Shooting has traditionally been my weaker link as a biathlete and my major focus for this training season,” Dunklee explained. “I spent the spring brainstorming how to speed up my shooting times with the US coaches and sports psychologist and we have taken satisfying steps already.  We decided it might also be beneficial for me to cast the net a little wider too. Joar’s camp worked very well with the timing of the Blink Festival, which I was already planning to race, and our team’s Europe camp. I heard that some top World Cup athletes were planning to attend.  It sounded like an opportunity worth trying out.”

Meanwhile in late July, the rest of the US Biathlon A-team, except Lowell Bailey, who got married July 11, attended a training camp in Östersund, Sweden.

“This part of the camp we are focusing on specific biathlon training,” U.S. women’s coach Jonne Kähkönen explained in an email. “There’s a really good roller loop at the stadium and a full range that typically has varying winds — no change this time, so good wind practice. We have already had a couple of sessions with some Swedish athletes joining in to mix it up and provide additional challenge on the head to head stuff at the range.”

They planned to stay there until Aug. 3, when Dunklee, Bailey and Leif Nordgren would rejoin the team after Blink for a week at the ski tunnel in Torsby, Sweden.

“Next week in Torsby the biggest focus is on the skiing and technique work,” Kähkönen said of the second part of their European camp.

The Sirdal training camp crew (from left to right): Biathlon Canada Head Coach Matthias Ahrens, Brendan Green, Nathan Smith, Katja Yurlova, Kaisa Makarainen, Susan Dunklee, Rosanna Crawford, and Norwegian personal shooting coach Joar Himle. (Photo: Matthias Ahrens)

The Sirdal training camp crew (from left to right): Biathlon Canada Head Coach Matthias Ahrens, Brendan Green, Nathan Smith, Katja Yurlova, Kaisa Makarainen, Susan Dunklee, Rosanna Crawford, and Norwegian personal shooting coach Joar Himle. (Photo: Matthias Ahrens)

In Sirdal, Canada brought its A-team, including Crawford and Heinicke, to work out with Yurlova, Mäkäräinen and Dunklee. Smith and Green coordinated sessions with some of the French men.

“We’ve been having discussions together as a group about different aspects of the shooting process,” Dunklee wrote. “Joar believes in the value of athletes taking ownership of their own training and in the value of learning from other people’s approaches.  We have also benefited from sharing the range here with the French and Norwegian women’s teams and collaborating on a few workouts.”

“It’s been great getting to chat with other athletes at meals and see what they’ve been up to during the summer,” Crawford wrote in an email.

She explained that all of the morning workouts included everyone —“Kaisa, Katja, Susan, Megan and the boys,” while afternoon training was a bit more individualized. They worked on shooting twice a day with Himle, including some shooting drills with the French team one day and the Norwegian women another afternoon.

“We also got to go for a great classic ski with some of the Norwegian women,” Crawford wrote. “It’s a pretty impressive group of people with 3 of them having WCH medals!”

On Wednesday, the group parted ways, with several athletes heading to Sandnes for the Blink races from Thursday to Saturday. Afterward, the Canadian A-team will venture to Oslo for three days to train on the 2016 IBU World Championships course. Then Ahrens and Smith will return to Canmore, and Crawford and Green will venture to Östersund for a few more days of training.

“Our B-team is in Canmore and will go up to the Haig glacier next week before they leave for [the North American Summer Championships in] Jericho [Vermont] and the races there,” Ahrens explained. “Otherwise we are mainly training in Canmore until we go for a 2 week camp in Park City in the last week of September, first week of October.”

Hiihtäjätähti Northug kriittisenä: ”Kunto on huono”
Norjalainen hiihtäjäsuuruus Petter Northug ei halunnut kommentoida ristiriitojaan Norjan hiihtoliiton kanssa.
Beijing Wins Bid for 2022 Winter Olympics
Beijing bid committee members react to being elected to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. (Photo: IOC/Flickr)

Beijing bid committee members react to being elected to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. (Photo: IOC/Flickr)

In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted today to award the 2022 Winter Olympics to Beijing, China. The competition was tight between and Almaty, Kazakhstan, the only other city which submitted a bid.

“We are honoured and humbled by the International Olympic Committee’s decision to award Beijing the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games,” the Beijing 2022 bid committee said in a released statement. “It is with an incredible sense of excitement that we express our thanks to the IOC and the wider Olympic Movement. Just as with the Beijing 2008 Summer Games, the Olympic Family has put its faith in Beijing again to deliver the athlete-centred, sustainable and economical Games we have promised. 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.”

There are roughly 110 IOC members, but only 85 of them voted in the 2022 Host City election. IOC President Thomas Bach did not (the President only votes in case of a tiebreak), nor did China’s three representatives; there are no IOC members from Kazakhstan, so they did not have to recuse themselves. 11 other members were excused.

One member was present, but abstained.

There were reportedly problems with the voting process, which was done via electronic tablets for the first time. After struggling with the system, members resorted to written votes, according to Inside The Games.

That meant that 42 votes were necessary to win, and Beijing received 44 votes. That was much closer than the competition appeared in the beginning.

Almaty ran a spirited bid, advertising their real snow and winter sports culture. You can read our review of the Almaty bid from the June candidate city presentations in Lausanne, Switzerland, here.

In the final days leading up to the vote, Almaty seemed to be making progress among IOC members. It was praised for fantastic presentations in the Kuala Lumpur session. You can watch a video from the presentation here.

“We extend our congratulations to Beijing on their successful bid for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games,” Almaty Vice Chairman Andrey Kryukov said. “China has played a significant role in the development of sport in Asia and we know that they will deliver a great Games. While we are disappointed, we are also grateful to the IOC for giving us the opportunity to present our vision to the world.”

Beijing, on the other hand, ran a sleek and professional campaign based on their ability to deliver on promises and the use of their huge economic power to implement a Games. Here is one of their earlier promotional videos.

While the strategy had many fans from the IOC membership from the very beginning, it has also drawn criticism for lacking snow, a meaningful winter sports legacy, and centralized venues, and for being built on environmental degradation and human rights violations. You can read our review of the Beijing bid here.

Nevertheless, Beijing’s economic might seems to have won out. In final presentations, Beijing touted the fact that the sports industry in China will be worth $800 million by 2022. It can also build hotels and venues at will, thanks to a captive economy directed by the government.

They also advertised that a Beijing Games would bring winter sports to roughly 300 million Chinese citizens, who do not have a strong winter sports culture. Whether this is indeed a lasting legacy remains to be seen. Basketball star Yao Ming was trotted out in support of the bid, but actually while growing up he was allowed to neither ski nor skate because sports organizers feared it hurting his basketball game.

Nevertheless, the sports industry and large size of the Chinese audience were clearly appealing to IOC members. This allows many marketing partnerships both by the IOC itself, and by its sponsors and companies which may be affiliated with some IOC members.

In terms of skiing, alpine competitions will be held in the Yanqing zone, roughly 90 kilometers outside of Beijing, and nordic and freestyle skiing in the Zhangjiakou zone, about 150 kilometers outside the city (hence the need for high speed rail).

“The USSA is looking forward to bringing our athletes, staff and supporters to Beijing as we once again look to be Best in the World,” the United States Ski and Snowboard Association wrote in a statement on their website announcing the Beijing victory.

Inside the Games also reported that in an informal survey of the eight members of the IOC’s Evaluation Commission – only four of whom are voting IOC members – eight had planned to vote for Almaty and only one for Beijing.

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