After much speculation, the wait is finally over. The 2022 Winter Olympics will be in Beijing, which beat out Almaty, Kazakhstan for the host city bid. The International Olympics Committee made the announcement Friday after a secret ballot was held during a session in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The decision marks a historic win for China — Beijing will be the first city to have hosted both the summer and winter Games.
In case you forgot, Beijing was the scene of the Summer Olympics not too long ago. The 2008 event was widely viewed as a success for the country, both culturally and financially. Nearly 5 billion people watched worldwide (roughly 70 percent of the world's population), making the games the most watched event in human history. The 2008 Summer Olympics was also China's first to host on its turf, and now it'll have home court advantage twice in 14 years.
Almaty had a tough battle ahead of it. Kazakhstan is relatively unknown on the world stage, and the small, semi-remote city seemed to offer little compared to the sprawling metropolitan that is Beijing. But Kazakhstan's economy — the largest in Central Asia — made the country confident it could take on the hefty bill that often comes with world sporting events. And the opportunity to give the landlocked country a boost in visibility could have been appealing for the IOC.
The lack of options was a blaring sign of mounting criticism against the IOC and the Olympic Games. Oslo, Munich, and Stockholm were also in the running before bowing out due to pressures at home. Rio de Janeiro's preparation for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics caused thousands of Brazilians to take to the streets to protest the government's decision to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into the expensive events.
Those recent events in Brazil likely played a role in the IOC's decision. Beijing, having hosted the games before, could easily outfit its summer facilities to accommodate winter sports, and the city already has the infrastructure to handle the huge influx of foreign visitors. Now the big question is what Beijing will offer in its opening ceremonies to trump the glitzy and highly choreographed spectacle that came in 2008. Remember them drums?
Image: Getty Images (1); China Video/YouTube