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IOC Awards Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games


And the winner is...


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: The International Olympic Committee has the honor to announce the host city of the Olympic Winter Games 2022 - Beijing.


MONTAGNE: Yes, Beijing, host of the 2008 summer games will now get the honors for the 2022 Winter Olympics as well. The process of choosing a host for this event has been steeped in controversy. It's been as much about who was not bidding for the games as who was. NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman joins us now to talk more about this. Good morning.


MONTAGNE: And let's get first to today's announcement. Why, Tom, do you think the International Olympic Committee chose Beijing over Almaty, Kazakhstan?

GOLDMAN: Maybe the voters were intimidated by 7'6" basketball legend Yao Ming, who is a very visible part of the Beijing bid team. You know, I think they went with a safe choice. Beijing is a known quantity, after hosting a successful 2008 summer games as you said. And also working in Beijing's favor - the cost savings of reusing Summer Olympic venues - the Birds Nest Stadium for - will be used for opening and closing ceremonies. The Water Cube, where Michael Phelps won all those medals in 2008, that will become the Ice Cube for curling.

And as it was for 2008, Beijing, China - a huge market for sponsors. You know, this was a showdown between a more quaint, wintery setting in Almaty with lots of real snow. In fact the bid slogan was, keeping it real as a promotion of Almaty and a dig at Beijing which is not a genuine winter sport, and it will have to rely on a lot of man-made snow.

Beijing is massive. The games will be spread out. Some mountain venues are a hundred miles away from the city. Of course there's the air pollution that was so evident during the 2008 games. But Olympic voters overlooked all that today and made Beijing the first city to host a summer and a winter games.

MONTAGNE: And once again this global sports spectacle will take place in a country with a sketchy human rights record, although that would have happened for both finalists, Kazakhstan as well - seems like that happens regularly with the games.

GOLDMAN: Yeah, it sure does. As IOC officials try to spread the games all over the world, there are many countries that treat their citizens poorly. According to The Guardian newspaper, in 2008 China ranked 167th on the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index. In 2014, that dropped to 175th, so they're going the wrong way. You know, the IOC likes to say by being there, by staging the games and capturing the world's attention, the IOC actually shines a light on problems - perhaps, but there's a big difference between shining a light on the problem for three weeks obviously and actually affecting change.

MONTAGNE: Well, just briefly, what about the cities that dropped out of this bid process?

GOLDMAN: That was a big deal. You know, a number of very appealing bidders including Munich, Stockholm, Oslo, Norway - either they couldn't muster enough political support or were afraid of the cost. And that was very alarming for the IOC, but new President Thomas Bach is aware of that situation, and he's made it a point with his Olympic Agenda 2020 to push this reform package that would significantly change the bid process and make things more streamlined and more cost-effective.

MONTAGNE: NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman, thanks.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome, Renee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on