Beijing has beaten Almaty to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, making the Chinese capital the first city ever to host both the summer and winter games.
Officials from the International Olympic Committee voted on the host city in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia as the two bid teams made their final efforts to lobby support.
Nicknamed “the games nobody wants to host”, the bid process saw Beijing pitted against Kazakhstan’s largest city Almaty after all other prospective candidates – Krakow, Lviv, Oslo and Stockholm – all withdrew their bids citing soaring costs or widespread public opposition the event.
Oslo was the odds-on favourite to win before the Norwegian capital’s withdrawal from the bidding process. Since then, Beijing has been widely tipped to secure its second Olympics in just seven years.
This is despite criticism that the city lacks both adequate snowfall and mountains high enough to stage winter sports, as well as raising concerns over the country’s human rights record. Last week a group of prominent human rights activists sent a letter to IOC President Thomas Bach that China’s ongoing assault on human rights lawyers and activists makes it unfit to host the games.
Sophie Richardson from Human Rights watch said: “In choosing China to host another Games, the IOC has tripped on a major human rights hurdle.”
“The IOC’s awarding of the 2022 Olympics to China is a slap in the face to China’s besieged human rights activists,” Richardson said. “Over the next seven years, the IOC has enormous work to do in China to win the credibility on human rights that will ensure a successful Olympics.”
Greenpeace’s Programme Director for Mainland China Ma Tianjie also raised concerns about the effects the build up to the games would have on the environment.
He said: “The IOC’s decision will once again bring the spotlight to Beijing and provide strong incentives for the Chinese government to accelerate the cleaning up of the country’s air and water. Beijing has been presented with a unique opportunity to leave a green legacy for generations to come.”