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2022 Winter Olympics to Be Held in Chinese Desert

Beijing has been awarded the title of host for the 2022 Winter Olympics, making it the first city in the world to host both summer and winter events. There is a bit of a twist, though, as many events will be held 200 km (124 mi) north of the city in arid Zhangjiakou—a city near the Gobi desert. No, this isn’t Bizarro world, it’s just China.

On Friday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) voted on Beijing over Almaty, Kazakhstan, with final votes coming in at 44 to 40. They will also be making use of existing structures in the city such as the Bird’s Nest stadium and Water Cube arena—both having been used for the 2008 summer games. The city also convinced voting delegates by introducing an ambitious artificial snow-making operation that will provide enough snow for the events.

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Part of this operation brings about the question—where will they get the incredible amounts of water needed to create snow in such an arid region? China is no stranger to absolutely massive water diversion projects, so they will no doubt find a way to pipe in enough to be used for ice, artificial snow, and the demands of a massive amount of people who will flock to the region come 2022. They are already said to have allotted US$90 million for these projects.

China will also use this opportunity to construct a high-speed rail line from Beijing to Zhangjiakou, allowing people to travel to each city in less than an hour. All total, it will be anyone’s guess as to how big the budget will be needed when factoring in the infrastructure needed for pulling this together. Besides snow and transport issues, there will no doubt be another huge campaign to (try to) clean up the toxic air that the Beijing area is known for.

Almaty, as The New York Times points out, presented a much different approach in their bid as host city. They highlighted the close proximity of their winter sports venues, many of which are already constructed, thus allowing them to keep better control of their budget. Also, there are mountains near the city which get enough snowfall. Still, Beijing won out, perhaps because of the confidence they gave the IOC after the incredible success of the 2008 summer games.

The other agenda on the plate here is China’s hope to use the coming winter Olympics as a springboard to get a nation of people passionate about winter sports. This would of course create a massive new facet to the sports industry, catering to millions of people eager to try out skiing, ice skating, hockey etc. The government has already predicted growth in this sector to reach US$800 billion by 2015.