With the Beijing Winter Olympics now less than two months away, and with the Games facing diplomatic boycotts by more than one country, including the US, the focus is once again on controversial China.
Interesting to note is that Beijing will soon become the first city in the history of the Olympics to host both the Winter and the Summer Games. And in the case of Beijing, it had perhaps been more a question of willingness than deservedness.
After the 2014 Russia Winter Olympics doping scandal, as many as six European countries withdrew from the bidding process. By the time 2015 and the voting stage rolled around, Olympic organisers and the IOC were left with two candidates only: Almaty (Kazakhstan) and Beijing.
The latter triumphed over Almaty with a suspiciously thin 44-40 vote – and one tarnished by what several suggested might have been the result of irregularities.
Those who withdrew from the bidding process were Oslo, Stockholm, Lviv, and Krakow. They were joined by rejections St. Moritz (Switzerland) and Munich (Germany).
Needless to say, Germany’s rejection proved something of an insult for IOC president Thomas Bach, who calls the country home. Switzerland, too, emerged a surprising decision as it happens to be home to the IOC’s headquarters.
While Stockholm and Oslo would have been prime locations for bringing the Olympic Games back home to traditional Europe, both withdraw because of politics and extravagant costs (Sochi had carried a scorching $51 billion price tag).
As such, the IOC had been left with two choices only. And both authoritarian governments requiring no vote on the part of the public. Notwithstanding, Almaty said at the time how 79 per cent of “voters” supported its bid to host the Winter Games, and Beijing declared a 94.8 per cent positive vote from the Chinese public.
How Beijing Changed The Process
At the time, in the wake of anger about accusations of the IOC being in cahoots with Beijing on the voting process, Bach declared China a “safe choice”.
While Almaty is home to natural snow and a winter wonderland, and Beijing to precious little natural in the way of skiing, the IOC and its members argued at the time that Winter Olympians preferred artificial snow.
If anything, the controversy that surrounded choosing between Beijing and Almaty eventually led to a complete overhaul of the IOC’s voting process. Instead of being voted on by 100 Olympic Committee members, Bach and a handful of members decide which venues are nominated for hosting the Winter Olympics.
As such, leadership has already named the venues set to host the Olympics all the way through 2032.