Beijing's historic Games double

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 01 August, 2015, 12:54am
UPDATED : Saturday, 01 August, 2015, 12:54am

Beijing has made history by becoming the first city to host both a summer and winter Olympic Games. Its successful bid for the 2022 winter event was perhaps not a surprise given that there were always questions about whether the only rival, Almaty, in Kazakhstan, would be able to host a major global event. China, having so successfully staged the Summer Olympics in 2008, has that capacity and more: No other nation has a proven track record of quick-time infrastructure construction and organisational skills. There is every reason to contend that this will be another memorable sporting extravaganza.

International sporting events have a reputation for being vanity projects. The cost of staging them is massive, which is why so many Western governments, their voting publics in mind, dropped out of the bidding for the 2022 Games. But although Beijing's budget is US$3 billion, it can readily justify the expense in terms of gains. There is a desire to increase interest in winter sports among Chinese, building the necessary infrastructure and venues will create jobs and expand economic growth and the push to clean up the polluted environment will be given a considerable boost.

Conversion of a number of Summer Games venues will keep costs down. Beijing gets little snow in winter, so it will host indoor events like ice hockey and curling and the opening and closing ceremonies, which will be held at the Bird's Nest stadium. Snow events will be at Beijing's Yanqing county and at Zhangjiakou in Hebei province's Chongli county. Thousands of tonnes of water - a scarce commodity in China's north - will have to be used to make artificial snow.

Air pollution is worst in the region in the winter, largely due to coal being the most affordable fuel for heating. Ensuring air is as clean as possible for athletes will require speedy conversion to gas and pushing ahead with plans to clean up factory and vehicle emissions. But those are side-benefits for Beijingers; the big win will be for Chinese to again show their prowess on the sporting field and being able to host a world-class event.