POSTED: July 31st 2015

Op Ed: The final countdown... will it be Almaty or Beijing for 2022 Olympics

DR. ERIC C. SCHWARZ at the KUALA LUMPUR CONVENTION CENTER (KLCC) / Sports Features Communications

(SFC)  As we enter the final hours before the vote for the winning host city of the 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games (scheduled for 5:30pm local time this evening July 31), it is an opportunity to reflect on my involvement covering this bid race over the past nine months, including this week at the 128th International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session here in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - and ask the question "who is really going to win this race?"

Looking back, this bid cycle started back in October 2012, when the IOC first promoted the bid process, and more importantly since November 2013, when letters of intent from six applicant cities were received:  Almaty, Kazakhstan; Beijing, China; Krakow, Poland; Lviv, Ukraine; Oslo, Norway; and Stockholm, Sweden.  Over the next year, Stockholm (January 2014); Krakow (May 2014); Lviv (June 2014); and finally Oslo (October 2014) all dropped out of the race - leaving Almaty and Beijing to battle it out for the hosting rights.

For the next nine months there have been IOC Evaluation Committee visits to both countries, numerous presentations to the IOC Executive Board, thousands of interviews and articles published and broadcast, and culminating today with each bid committee's final presentation today to the Full Assembly of the IOC.

The topics of coverage have been wide, varied, and substantial.  Natural snow vs. artificial snow.  Air quality and environmental sustainability?  Governmental support.  Support from athletes - both past and present.  Budgets and financing. Capital investment and infrastructure availability.  Human rights and ethics.  Transportation and travel time to venues.  And of course legacy and the city's ultimate ability to host the Games.  All of this under the shadow of the recently affirmed Olympic Agenda 2020 - the IOC's strategic roadmap for the future of the Olympic Movement.

So who should really be chosen to host the 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games?  Considering all the information that has been presented and published over the past months and years... I consider the words of President Bach and the concepts of feasibility, sustainability and legacy - with the latter being the real game changer to me.  Beyond everything discussed above - is the real legacy the fact that Beijing would become the first city to host both a Summer and Winter Games... something that will live on in perpetuity?  Or is the real legacy bringing the Olympics to a new region (Eurasia/Central Asia) for the first time, to help change the face of a city, and region - not very different from past actions of the IOC when they awarded the Winter Games to relatively unknown cities ranging from Sarajevo, Yugoslavia in 1984 - to Albertville, France (1992) and Lillehammer, Norway (1994) - to the upcoming Games in PyeongChang, South Korea in 2018.

So I go back to my original question - "who is really going to win this race?"  Only the voters truly know - and those 'on the fence' will make their decision after the presentations from Almaty (10:35am local time) and Beijing (12:00pm local time) today.  Reports from the Evaluation Commissions will take place at 3:00pm, and the vote at 4:15pm.  So the answer to my question will be announced around 5:30pm local time... then it will become real for one of these cities.

DR. ERIC C. SCHWARZ is a tenured Senior Lecturer of Sport Management at Victoria University in Melbourne, Australia.  He has been an academician for 15 years in the areas of sport business management, international tourism, and hospitality management - with special focus on the areas of sport marketing, sport finance, tourism, and facility/event management.  He speaks globally and is the author of numerous publications in these areas, as well as been actively involved in consulting projects working with a multitude of sport and community organizations ranging from grassroots efforts to hallmark events.  

Keywords · Olympics; Beijing 2022; Almaty 2022; 128th IOC Session

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