So the 2022 Winter Olympics has gone to Beijing rather than Almaty. Or to be precise, rather than to Almaty, Oslo, Stockholm, Krakow, Lviv (the other formal candidate cities), or Sarajevo, Tyrol/Trentino, Nice, Quebec City, Graubünden (Switzerland), Helsinki, Santiago, and the various other places that showed an initial interest.
Out of all of which, the bid has gone to probably the worst possible option except the one in a war zone. Because the only reason, seriously, the only reason the Olympics are going to be in Beijing is because no democratic country could get the ridiculously bloated demands of the IOC past its population.* Norway was the last one in the ring, and Norway withdrew after, among other things, the IOC demanded specific cocktail parties with the king, and total control over all advertising in Oslo for the duration of the event. At which point, and not being prepared to pay for ever-ballooning venue demands, Norway said "Fuck off" to the IOC and the IOC put out some rather juvenile press releases about how Norwegian politicians just didn't understand.
Let's be clear, this was a spectacular own goal on the part of the IOC. Had Oslo been prepared to meet its demands, there was no way the Norwegian bid wouldn't have won. Norway has the weather, mountains, popular enthusiasm for the sports, and the money to make it work. Even the IOC couldn't be sufficiently bribed not to choose it. There was public support, as long as it didn't cost too much and made use of the already existing (fantastic) facilities. It would have been the best Winter Olympics since Lillehammer.** Anyone with half a brain in the IOC ought to have done anything they possibly could for the chance of running the Olympic cross-country skiing events at Holmenkollen, which would have provided the sort of crowds and atmosphere that even they can't buy. Instead, they are going to China, where there will be no snow and no spectators.
And so here we are, with the 2022 Winter Olympics to be held in a place where there is no snow. Seriously. There is less than 1m a year, and they will have to rely entirely on artificial snow-making in a semi-arid area that receives about 15" of rain per year. You don't get a lot of rain out of what's left over when you've used that for such trivialities as drinking, washing, and agriculture.
This is a decision so utterly shit that you would be making a more sensible decision to award the Winter Olympics to any of the following: Beirut, Tehran, Glasgow or Aberdeen. I am not joking. Would it be a good idea to have the Winter Olympics in Beirut? Of course not - but it has more reliable snow and a more developed skiing infrastructure in the vicinity than Beijing does. Tehran has amazing snow just 40 miles away, but it might be a bit short on ice hockey stadia. So, of course, is Beijing. The Scottish mountains have more snow, a great deal more rain for emergency snow-making, are closer to the host cities, and already have the curling rinks. The howling gales might be a problem, but we could put up really big wind-breaks.
I truly cannot convey how absolutely ridiculous this decision is. Even with the European countries gone there was still a reasonable alternative to Beijing. Almaty wouldn't have been perfect (those pesky human rights again), but it was actually a credible bid. Kazakhstan has the (real) snow, the mountains, a winter sports culture, existing facilities, and has been running itself in through hosting the Asian Winter Games and the 2017 Winter Universiade. It might even have cleaned up the smog. It also has the sort of government that could just spend what it took to provide the latest Galaxy tablet for ever IOC official, or whatever they want. This factor obviously being the most important. It's just that the tablets Bejing provides will be even shinier.
Farewell, the Olympic movement! It was nice knowing you.
*And the shopping is better than in Kazakhstan
**Yes, I have a vested interest, because I would definitely have gone.
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