Olympics: Beijing clinches historic 2022 Winter Games vote



KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA, Tim Witcher- Beijing on Friday narrowly won a historic International Olympic Committee vote for the 2022 Winter Games that secured its place in sporting history.
The Chinese capital beat Almaty in Kazakhstan by just 44 votes to 40, with one abstention, to become the first city to be awarded both the summer and winter Games.



Beijing's mayor Wang Anshun hailed the win, saying it had been a "remarkable day" for China.
Beijing held the summer Olympics in 2008 in what was then seen as China sealing its place on the world stage as an emerging superpower.
This time it had been the strong favourite, presenting itself as an experienced pair of hands against underdog Almaty.
But the former capital of the Central Asian republic ate into China's support with a "Keeping It Real" campaign that played on Beijing's reliance on artificial snow and the vast distances between its venues.
International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach said China's win was a "safe" and "historic" decision, adding: "We know China will deliver on its promises."
Bach had ordered a revote with paper ballots after voting with electronic tablets produced doubtful results.
Bach reacted tersely to suggestions of voting irregularities insisting it was a "technical issue."
- IOC surprise -
IOC members were surprised by the narrow victory when it was declared.
"I always said Almaty would get more support than people had expected, but I never thought it would be that close," said Craig Reedie, a British member of the IOC.
He said members had been impressed by the final presentation by Kazakh prime minister Karim Massimov.
China's President Xi Jinping promised rock solid government support for Beijing.
"Let me assure you that if you choose Beijing, the Chinese people will present to the world a fantastic, extraordinary and excellent Olympic Winter Games," Xi said in a video message to the meeting.
After the result, Chinese bid officials, including basketball legend Yao Ming, hugged each other in celebration. In Beijing, performers and uniformed volunteers erupted into orchestrated dancing and flag-waving.
"Finally - we won, but it was not easy," Yao acknowledged.
"I was very confident about this campaign, but when the moment came I was still very excited about what we have done," the former Houston Rockets center told reporters.
Some of Beijing's 2008 venues, including its iconic Bird's Nest national stadium will be reused for the 2022 Games.
But it will also make widespread use of machine-made snow for outdoor events and some of the venues are 200 kilometres (125 miles) from Beijing.
All of Almaty's proposed venues were within 30 kilometres (18 miles) of the city, which the delegation portrayed as a "winter wonderland" with abundant natural snow.
Beijing has said it will spend $3.06 billion on running the Games and special infrastructure for the event. That does not include $5 billion for a high-speed train link from Beijing to Zhangjiakou, where many mountain events will be held.
Kazakhstan, which became independent from the former Soviet Union in 1991, had sought the Games as a way to mark its place on the world map.
"We are a golden opportunity to prove that smaller advancing nations can successfully host the Olympic Games," Kazakhstan's prime minister told the IOC.
Almaty would stage "a Games that are centred on the needs of athletes and sport, not on the needs of (the) host country's global image", said Andrey Kryukov, vice chairman of the Almaty bid committee in a veiled dig at China.
Both countries' human rights records have been condemned by activist groups, but no mention of rights was made in the IOC debate.
However, following the vote Human Rights Watch called the decision "a slap in the face to China's besieged human rights activists."
Six cities were originally in the race to follow 2018 hosts Pyeongchang in South Korea.
But after Russia spent more than $50 billion to stage the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Oslo, Stockholm, Krakow in Poland and Lviv in Ukraine withdrew because of cost fears and local politics.
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Friday, July 31st 2015
Tim Witcher
           


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