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Kuala Lumpur: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Friday awarded the 2022 Winter Olympics to Beijing which hosted an “exceptional” Summer Games in 2008 and promises to do even better this time.

Beijing won 44 nods against Almaty’s 40 in the IOC voting with one abstention, becoming the first ever city to host both summer and winter Olympics, reports Xinhua.

In the 2022 Games voting, the secret ballot by 85 IOC members was conducted twice, first electronically and then on paper, after it was discovered that the electronic system had malfunctioned.

The Games will be divided between the capital and the city of Zhangjiakou — which is 118 miles north-west of Beijing and will host the snow events.

The Chinese capital and its co-bidder Zhangjiakou erupted with joy as IOC president Thomas Bach announced the winner at the 128th IOC session at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center.

Chinese President Xi Jinping reiterated China’s passion for the Games in a video speech played during Beijing’s final presentation to the IOC members early in the afternoon.

“The 2022 Olympic Winter Games if held in China will boost exchanges and mutual understanding between the Chinese and other civilizations of the world, encourage more than 1.3 billion Chinese to engage in winter sports with interest and passion and give them yet another opportunity to help advance the Olympic Movement and promote the Olympic spirit,” Xi said.

“The Chinese government highly appreciates the Olympic Values and the IOC’s initiative of reform. We will honour all the commitments we have made and fully implement the Olympic Agenda 2020.”

A 12-member Beijing panel made a passionate presentation six hours earlier. Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong and former NBA star Yao Ming also weighed in.

The panel explained how the bid met the Olympic Agenda 2020 principles, promising athlete-centred, sustainable and economical Games, while giving much more: an opportunity to grow winter sports in the world’s most populous country, as well as a buzzing environment of a modern city and sporting action at the foot of the Great Wall.

Almaty, the former capital of Kazakhstan, bowed out with grace. Its message of a compact Games with atmosphere and a wintry setting was not quite enough to get it across the line.

Modern, quick and efficient transport is a key element of the Beijing 2022 bid. An integral part of the government’s Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Intercity Rail Master Plan, the construction of the Beijing-Zhangjiakou high-speed rail link began last year and will be fully operational by early 2019.

Yanqing is only 20 minutes from Beijing while Zhangjiakou is just 50 minutes away from the capital city.

Beijing 2022 will re-use 11 of 12 competition and non-competition facilities post-2008 including four iconic venues — Bird’s Nest National Stadium, Water Cube National Aquatics Center, Wukesong MasterCard Center and the China National Convention Center (CNCC).

Air quality and snow conditions are regarded as two of the major challenges for Beijing, but the bid officials have given an answer and solution to all the concerns.

In an effort to tackle air pollution, Beijing upgraded its coal-fired heating system in urban areas to natural gas heating system and closed down heavy-polluted plants. Neighbouring city Tianjin and provinces including Hebei adopted similar measures.

Lack of natural snow was considered as a disadvantage for the 2022 host. But the climate conditions in Zhangjiakou’s Chongli county, where cross country, freestyle and other skiing events will be held, won’t be a concern.

“In last snow season in the Chongli resort, the snowfall is 70 centimetres, so that’s enough for Winter Olympics Games,” said Zhangjiakou Mayor Hou Liang.

(IANS)


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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

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