Friday, 31 July 2015

Beijing's Deja Vu

Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong makes the successful pitch for Beijing
Here we go again -- Beijing has been awarded the rights to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

It was a pretty lopsided race to start with, though the Chinese capital was considered a weak contender in the beginning.

Originally Oslo and Stockholm were the the frontrunners, but each fell out probably due to the fact that their respective residents didn't want to foot the massive bill.

Then it came down to Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Pro-Tibet demonstrators present a dramatic protest
There were concerns Beijing would have no snow, and the usual human rights abuses -- which made me realize this was why dissident artist Ai Weiwei was given back his passport about a week ago. He's now in Germany visiting his son.

While Almaty has tons of natural snow, it didn't have the experience of holding the Games like Beijing did in 2008 (the 7th anniversary is coming up), and its own human rights issues.

Beijing promises it will snow -- dammit we will make it snow! -- by hosting the alpine events in Yanqing and Zhangjiakou (60km and 140km away respectively) from the Chinese capital.

The Chinese delegation also brought out its star power -- Yao Ming and Li Na -- interesting that the retired tennis superstar would be willing to show up, but maybe because she's a mother now, pitching for Beijing gets her some brownie points.

Now there's another reason to use the practically neglected Bird's Nest and other Olympic venues, though Beijing will surely build a few more -- ahead of schedule -- to show that it can.

Now the Chinese government can boast in its promotional literature that it is the first city in the world to host both the Summer and Winter games. It's an easy way for China to hint, Any host city in the United States ever attempted that feat?

Residents in Zhangjiakou hold a sign saying, "We did it!"
Beijing is doing its happy dance now and will do so for the next few days, though the euphoria won't last long. Memories will flood back of hutongs being demolished for Olympic venues and how the city was in lock down mode, where residents couldn't move around freely while the Games were on.

One thinks Beijing's promise of having snow -- some form of it -- on the mountains seems like a huge one that may not be fulfilled, though now that all eyes are on Beijing again, it will have to be on its best behaviour from today until 2022.

Over lunch over a week ago, a hotel executive and I were talking about Vancouver and how he went there to watch the Winter Games.

But he suggested that perhaps to help the ailing Greek economy that it would be best to hold the Summer Games every four years in Athens from now on, where it was originally held thousands of years ago.

He felt cities were needlessly going into debt holding these events, spending money to build Olympic venues that are collecting dust.

What about the Winter Games, I asked? Have them in Vancouver?

He agreed, or to do without them altogether -- after all the Olympics didn't have winter events!

Food for thought...

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