LAUSANNE: Beijing, Oslo and Almaty will contest the race to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced on Monday.
The three cities, which were granted official candidate status, were the only remaining bidders after the withdrawal of Swedish capital Stockholm, Krakow in Poland and Lviv in Ukraine.
“These three candidates have totally different approaches in terms of heritage, budget, infrastructure, but all impressed us,” IOC chief Thomas Bach said after an executive board meeting at the Olympic body’s base in the Swiss city of Lausanne.
The decision had been widely expected.
“It’s not a surprise. We are an important winter sports country in the Olympic movement and we have worked hard to come here,” Inge Andersen, head of Norway’s National Olympic Committee, said in Lausanne.
The 2018 Winter Olympics will take place in Pyeongchang, South Korea, while the 2014 edition was held in the Russian resort of Sochi.
The winner of the 2022 race will be announced on July 31, 2015 at an IOC congress in Kuala Lumpur.
“Legacy” is a buzzword in international sport, with would-be hosts meant to demonstrate that venues will not become white elephants after the show is over.
“The executive board was impressed by the legacy plans of each of the three cities,” said Bach.
“It was good to see that each of the bidding cities understood
the difference between the Olympic Games budget and the long-term infrastructure and investment budget from which the population benefits for decades,” he added.
Norwegian capital Oslo’s bid aims to build on the highly-regarded 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer.
With Oslo having hosted the 1952 edition, National Olympic Committee chief Inge Andersen said his country did not see a problem in a third bid.
“I think it is an advantage, because our goal is to bring
the Winter Olympic Games back to the roots, back to winter,” he said.
Most of the Olympic venues would be in Oslo, while Alpine skiing and bobsled would be held in Lillehammer, some 180km away.
Kazakhstan’s former capital Almaty, which remains the ex-Soviet republic’s economic powerhouse, meanwhile, aims to use the Olympics to transform itself into a sports, tourism and convention hub in Central Asia.
Almaty failed in two previous attempts to win candidate status.
“For us this is a big victory,” bid board member Andrey Kryukov said in Lausanne.
Its lower global profile than Oslo and Beijing is a “big challenge” he said, but its proximity to the mountains is a bonus.
“There’s a 35km radius of the Games,” said Kryukov.
In addition, Almaty will host the 2017 Winter Universiade — an international student sporting competition.
“That’s a test event five years before the Winter Olympics. It’s the best guarantee,” Kryukov underlined.
Beijing, in turn, aims to tap the legacy of the 2008 Olympics and also create a winter sports centre for China as a springboard for new tourism.
Beijing would make history as the first city to hold both the summer and winter games.
Mountain events would take place in Zhangjiakou, 200km from Beijing.
“What we are trying to do is be the best city and the most appropriate city for the 2022 Winter Olympics,” bid committee vice-president Yang Xiaochao said in Lausanne.
“If we host the Winter Olympic Games in 2022, we only need to build one venue in Beijing, for the ice sports,” he said.
The IOC has become increasingly keen to ensure local populations are solidly behind a bid.
Several cities have dropped out of recent races, with cost a major public concern.
Lviv’s decision to withdraw last week came amid an insurgency by pro-Russian militants.
Krakow, however, pulled out in May after a local referendum, while Stockholm quit in January when the city council opposed the Olympic plan.
Norwegian politicians are still discussing Oslo’s bid.
“These are very healthy discussions,” said multi-titled Norwegian former cross-country skier Bjoern Daehlie, part of the bid team, in Lausanne.
“I’m confident,” he told reporters. AFP