Nobody wants to host the Winter Olympics these days—they are expensive and don’t much help the economy. But the Chinese Communist Party, which secured the winning bid to host the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, is willing to open the nation’s coffers to keep up its tradition of vanity mega-projects.
Delegates from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) weren’t given much choice at the ballot box in Kuala Lumpur on Friday, July 31.
Oslo, Stockholm, Lviv, and Krakow had all pulled out over fears of overrun costs, weak public support, and political considerations.
In the end, only Beijing in communist China and Almaty in authoritarian Kazakhstan remained. Despite being firm favorites, Beijing sneaked by with a slim 44–40 margin.
Beijing is a “safe choice,” said IOC President Thomas Bach. “We know China will deliver on its promises.”
The Chinese regime has a lot to deliver by 2022. Unlike Almaty, a compact city with ample snowfall, Beijing cannot boast about “Keeping It Real”—the Kazakh city’s Winter Games slogan.
A 90-mile high-speed railway line has to be constructed from Beijing to Zhangjiakou outside the city limits. Beijing Olympics organizers will have to find a way to produce enough snow because the city sees little of it.
And Beijing’s legendary air pollution problems have to be controlled. During the 2008 Summer Games, factories were shut and over a million cars were banned from the roads to cut smog, resulting in only two days of unhealthy weather. Plans have been made to shut down four coal-fired power plants by 2016, but it might be tough to convince Beijingers to turn off their generators and layer up indoors during the winter.
Support for the Olympic bid was also muted as compared to the 2008 Games—most of the celebrations were held in the Bird’s Nest stadium at an event attended by about 500 preselected participants as opposed to people celebrating in the streets—in part because Beijing has little interest in winter sports, given the relatively milder temperatures during the season.
To finance this, the Chinese regime will likely have to break the proposed $3.9 billion budget—which doesn’t include the cost of the high-speed railway—and cannot expect to profit much economically. The 2008 Summer Games ran a price tag of $40 billion, but the income generated from the sales of broadcasting rights, souvenirs and tickets, assets sales, and sponsorship amounted to $3.3 billion, according to state-run publication China Daily.
But the Chinese Communist Party is willing and able to spend big on an event lacking in popularity and manufacture winter because it is ultimately, like communist countries before it, more concerned with image building.
Dams, airports, ports, tall towers, and the world’s longest bridges are some of the many mega-projects the regime embarked on in recent years. National debt reached $27.7 trillion in 2014, according to the state-run Xinhua News Agency, citing the Mckinsey Global Institute. In contrast, China’s gross domestic product stands at $10.2 trillion in 2014.