Beijing looks fair bet for 2022 Winter Games, despite lack of enthusiasm

Sun Jul 5, 2015 5:02pm EDT
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By Ben Blanchard

BEIJING (Reuters) - Poorly attended news conferences, a meager global social media footprint and lack of much obvious enthusiasm on the ground; Beijing looks like an improbable front-runner to win the right to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

With Oslo dropping out of the race last year, citing worries over costs and the lack of popular support, Beijing, which hosted the 2008 Summer Games to wide acclaim, is left facing the Kazakh city of Almaty.

Almaty previously bid for the 2014 Winter Olympics, but did not make the final shortlist of three cities. Those Games were eventually awarded to Sochi in Russia.

Unlike in the weeks ahead of the 2001 decision to award the 2008 Olympics to China when Beijing buzzed with excitement, just weeks ahead of the July 31 decision on 2022 there is little sign of Olympic ardor, aside from a few posters in the subway.

Despite its sporting prowess at the Summer Games, China is not a winter sports power, and won only nine medals at the 2014 Sochi Games, ranking 12th overall. Summer Games are also generally considered a bigger event than the winter equivalent.

Even so, the government appears to be setting expectations low for the public reaction should Beijing win the decision.

In 2001, crowds thronged Tiananmen Square and city streets in an outpouring of joy, following a win seen by many Chinese as a sign that their country was finally getting the respect it deserved on the global stage as a rising power.

"I've really not thought about this. I'm in charge of news and publicity, so it should be something I've thought of. But I've not," bid spokeswoman Wang Hui told reporters last week when asked if public celebrations, or watching the decision on big screens around the city, were being considered.   Continued...