GamesBids.com presents the eighth annual Top Ten list of Olympic Bid Stories for 2015. These stories impacted the course of Olympic host city bids, or the Olympic bid process, and formed interesting plot lines and story arcs for the year. We’ll run them down from 10th to 1st as the year ends – click on the links for details.
Top Olympic Bid Stories of 2015: #2 – Beijing Defeats Almaty In Bid To Host 2022 Olympic Winter Games
I know what you’re thinking. Why is the story about winning the Olympic bid not the top story of the year on a list that focusses only on Olympic bids? It’s a first for GamesBids.com. To be honest, even second place is generous for a bid that in its final stretch was largely forgotten.
On July 31 at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia the City of Beijing was elected to host the 2022 Olympic Winter Games defeating its only opponent, Almaty in Kazakhstan by a vote of 44 to 40.
After the IOC initially received six applications to host the Games, four European cities dropped out for various economic and political reasons leaving the two outsiders behind. Of those, Beijing was considered the overwhelming favourite due to, among other things, its experience and economic might.
It was historical as well.
The decision will make the Chinese capital the first city to host both the Summer and Winter versions of the Olympic Games, in some cases using common venues.
But the race was so underwhelming that during the run-up to the election it was largely ignored and overshadowed by other sport business and, in fact, the bids for the 2024 Summer Games in campaigns that had yet to even fully launch.
Even the controversy and shadiness behind a “technical glitch” that spoiled the entire first ballot requiring a second handwritten ballot instead, in what ended up being a very tight vote, passed without much interest.
It was also very telling.
Despite the approval of Agenda 2020 reforms and sweeping changes that were to modify the bid process in ways that would decrease costs and lead to more economical and sustainable Games plans thus opening doors to smaller nations – none of that really happened. Regardless of the rhetoric by IOC members in support of the reforms and the unanimous approval of them – they didn’t really exhibit that they embraced the change.
Almaty was considered the “poster child” for Agenda 2020 with many prebuilt venues on a compact footprint in a Winter sports community. And though Beijing has the infrastructure that can easily support the ice events, the development required to build and link the distant and dry snow cluster makes it anything but economical and sustainable, and the legacy is extremely questionable.
The narrow four-vote margin in favour of Beijing marks a complete failure for the IOC, and Agenda 2020, in this decision. An Almaty win would have shown that Agenda 2020 was working, and could be a model for future bids. A resounding Beijing victory would have revealed a united group behind the choice, and that it was made for valid reasons.
But the close vote shows that there is still a divide within the IOC between new ways of the future and old ways of the past.
You have to wonder whether in this election the goals of Agenda 2020 would have been reached without a single change to the process, except for the one old rule that wasn’t touched by IOC President Thomas Bach. Had Bach instead only reinstated member visits to bid cities, reversing a ban that was implemented in reaction to the Salt Lake City corruption scandal in the 90’s, voters would have experienced Almaty and discovered that it made sense. Only two would have had to change their minds to make a difference.
Instead, most voters chose what they were familiar with – Beijing – where they were for the Summer Games just seven years earlier.
That’s the big story here, and the one that no one is talking about. But we’ll cover it as our top story of the year, stay tuned!