Beijing has beaten Kazakhstan in winning the right to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. This would be a significant and major sporting event that Beijing hosts since the 2008 Summer Olympics. Although the 2008 Olympics could be seen as a success considering the size, investments, and earnings, hosting the Winter Olympics would be another story. In the past, the Chinese team did not have a tradition in participating in, or winning, winter sports. Ever since its first gold medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics in the speed skating event, China has never earned another medal in related events. Picking up the baton as the country to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, China has to undergo a series of preparation in securing a position that is fit for its growing economic influence in the world. This post first examines a background of China’s experience in hosting Olympics games as well as the country winning the right for 2022 Winter Olympics. After that, it will explore China’s preparation in hosting the mega-event, including examining reports of the facilities being built and training the athletes. Finally, the post will end with a discussion on the aspects that China has to be aware of, including terrorism challenges, environmental concerns, and post-game affairs.
Celebrating Beijing’s victory to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games (Soure: Xinhua News)
China and the Olympic Games
Since 1984, China has fully rejoined the Olympic Games, altering its sports policy toward Olympics events so that it could gain recognition at an international level (Li, 2009, 3314). In China, the state plays a major role in sports. There is a highly centralized, government-funded system, resembling an assembly-line, to train excellent and competitive athletes (3314). It is part of the country’s strategy to shift from a planned economy to a market economy. To train and develop star athletes, there are talent scouts that pick gifted children from kindergartens and elementary schools and send them to full-time sports school for intensive training (Li, 2009; Bardon, 2008). The Chinese Communist Party, sole political party that governs China, sees the Olympic Games as an excellent opportunity for the country. According to Heslop et al., (2009), countries enthusiastically compete for the “rights to hold the event for the tourism revenues and the enhancement of national and international prestige that are expected to flow from successfully hosting the event” (405). Successfully hosting the Olympic Games not only benefit tourism, but also promote the country’s non-democratic image, and its unique culture.
The 2008 Beijing Olympics was a unique opportunity for China to showcase itself to the world.
For instance, in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, China won 51 gold, 21 silver, and 28 bronze, placing it next to the United States’ 110 medal (“Beijing 2008 Medal”, 2016). At that event, China won the most gold medals out of all the participating countries. The Chinese government is eager to win Olympic gold medals in order to “bolster the image of the nation but also intensify the national awareness of its people” (Li, 2009, 3314). The Chinese government continues to emphasize on training competitive athletes to compete internationally at Olympic games.
The bid for 2022 Winter Olympics was not popular among possible cities, and that many countries pulled their bids upon realizing the consequences and price of the mega-event. Oslo, Stockholm, and Krakow are among the cities that withdrew their bids prior to Beijing beating Almaty, Kazakhstan for the right to host (Pramuk, 2015). The cities were aware that hosting the games would be expensive and resource-draining. The costs of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, and the 2008 Summer Olympics at Beijing both reached $40 billion, according to estimates (Pramuk, 2015). Despite many cities being unprepared to host the games, Beijing was very enthusiastic to be the host country in 2022. In the bid, Beijing seeks “to incorporate winter sports into people’s lives with the ultimate goal of improving overall fitness and health” (Pramuk, 2015). The city also guarantees that there will be blankets of snow in the outdoor venues. It is evident that Beijing aims to use the opportunity to promote Northern China both nationally and internationally.
China’s Preparation for the 2022 Winter Games
As the first city to ever host both the Summer and Winter Olympics, Beijing has to prepare its facilities and athletes to have a successful mega-event. In regards to the facility, Beijing proposed in the bid that the Games will be split between three locations, 1) one in the city of Zhangjiakou, 2) one in Yanqing (a mountainous region north west of Beijing), and 3) one in Beijing (Coffey, 2015). The three sites would each have facilities to host different events of the Game. For example, Zhangjiakou will be the sit for cross-country, biathlon, ski jumping, and snowboarding events. Yanqing will be focused on alpine skiing, luge and skeleton, and bobsleigh events. Finally, Beijing will host the opening and close ceremonies, speed skating, figure skating, ice hockey, and curling events (Coffey, 2015). To prepare for the many events that require ice and snow, Beijing has plans to develop and promote winter sports in China. There are currently 568 private-operated ski resorts in China, an increase of 25% from 2014 (Bergman, 2016). However, this is a small number compared to many Western counterparts. As a result, China is commissioning Verbier, the world-leading Swiss resort renowned for “efficient life system and extensive expert terrain” to help prepare for the Games (Coffey, 2015). Another issue relating to facilities is the environment concerns, which will be discussed later in this post.
In addition to facilities, Beijing needs to prepare training athletes for the Winter Games. China has not been recognized as a major Winter sport player in the past. However, President Xi Jinping “pledged to IOC President Thomas Bach at Sochi that some 300 million Chinese people will actively participate in promoting winter sports if” Beijing was selected to host the game (Chu, 2015,128). China wants to use the opportunity as soft power to show the nation’s durable political order and ability to carry global responsibilities. Traditionally, the people in the three big cities in northest China have their own ice hockey teams (Ablaza, 2016). With the excitement of the 2022 Winter Olympics bid, the sport will gradually shift to southern areas. According to Coach Zhang Dongdong, a former national ice hockey player in China who retired at age 23, although ice hockey is not a popular sport in China, “the President’s support for sports help them develop the athletes’ abilities at a young age” (Ablaza, 2016). As the Games draw nearer, China will also be scouting and training young athletes to participate in intensive training to win gold medals for the country.
Factors to be Aware
Despite the excitement and resources to host the Winter Olympics, Beijing has a number of concerns to worry about, including terrorism, environment, and post-event. With the global war on extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS, international mega-events pose as possible targets for attacks. Countries are aware of the risks and treat security seriously. For example, about 300,000 security and military personnel from over 12 nations secured the playing venue for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, viewed as international coalition to counter the threat of terrorism (Atkinson, 2012, 302). Not only was the venue heavily secured, many countries brought their own security guards along. Many countries’ teams traveled with their own police escorts or crews to protect the players and related individuals (302). Having ongoing difficulties with extremist groups in Tibet and Uyghut Muslim Ethnic separatists in Xinjiang, China has to be cautious to both interior and exterior forces. China has been in ongoing fights with these challenges, as former President Hu Jintao said, “We have to fight against the three evils of separatism, extremism and terrorism” (Van Wie Davis, 2008). To protect the athletes and attendees of the 2022 Winter Olympics, the Chinese government has to be prepared for potential troubles with these groups.
In addition, environmental concern is a major challenge for the 2022 Beijing Games. As the Zhangjiakou and Yanqing Zones have minimal snowfall, the Games would need to rely on manmade snow (Mills, 2015). However, artificial snow brings a number of difficulties. Snow making could divert natural waters, alter the normal flows of rivers and streams, and cause dry stream beds, effects on irrigation, and harm the species and ecology (Schmidt, 2006, 292). The natural area surrounding the event site would suffer tremendously during and after the event. According to reports, the artificial snow is going to be generated in an area already suffering severe water stress, and becoming increasingly arid” (Mills, 2015). Thus, the water would need to be taken from reservoirs and deplete the drinking water supplies of the area. To make matter worse, the Olympic Village “will be built right next to an existing nature reserve” (Mills, 2015). The activities and people at the village would have a negative impact on the nature reserve, be it noise level, illumination, or housing development. The environmental harm of the Olympics in only one of the three event sites is already causing worries to environmental groups.
2022 Winter Olympics skiing course taking in Winter 2015 (Source: Gizmodo)
Another major concern is the infrastructure post-game. Despite the fact that mega-events could lead to new commodities and increase the acceleration of capitalist production, circulation, and consumption (Compton, 2015, 59), many of the event sites are deserted post-event. For example, 2008 Beijing Olympic venues (others than the Bird’s Nest and Water Cube, such as the rowing and kayaking centre, baseball arena and BMX track, have been left either deserted or been completely demolished (Gray, n.d.). These are some of the abandoned buildings in China post-Games. Throughout the globe, there are countless deserted venues that are not reused after the mega-event. Beijing has to devise uses for the Winter Olympics venues to adhere to its environmental assessments.
In the recent 2022 Winter Olympics bid, Beijing has beat its sole competitor, Kazakhstan, in securing the rights to host the Games. This would make Beijing the first city to ever host both the Summer and Winter Games. The mega-event would be a valuable opportunity for the country to demonstrate that it can shoulder international responsibilities, showcase its development in a non-democratic society, and flash its achievements in the past decade. However, in preparing for the mega-event, China has to take into consideration the preparation of its facilities and athletes. As China has not been a country known for winter sports, this would be a great hurdle. Furthermore, the China would need to take note of the potential terrorism difficulties, environmental concerns, and the use of facilities post-game. Despite the fact that the 2002 Winter Olympics hold limitless opportunities for Beijing’s development, there are many challenges it needs to overcome to host a successful event. Would China be able to surpass its 2008 Summer Olympics? Could the country deal with the environmental outcries from environmental groups? How would the event turn out? All will be unveiled, in time.
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