Beijing Winter Olympics Would Tax Water Supplies, IOC Study Says

Beijing’s bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics could deplete existing water resources, according to an International Olympic Committee report.

“Reliance on artificial snowmaking would require diversion of water from existing reservoirs and may impact other land uses,” the IOC evaluation commission said Monday after visiting the city in March. The “scale of regional air quality issues is very significant.”

IOC members will choose between Beijing and Almaty in Kazakhstan after presentations by both cities in Kuala Lumpur on July 31. Oslo; Stockholm; Krakow, Poland; and Lviv, Ukraine, all dropped out of the running citing costs and lack of local support. Russia spent a record $51 billion on the 2014 games in Sochi.

Beijing, which hosted the 2008 Summer Games, is proposing Alpine skiing and sliding venues and an Olympic Village at Yanqing adjacent to the 4,600 hectare Songshan National Nature Reserve. China has a fifth of Earth’s population yet only 7 percent of its freshwater resources.

Almaty’s bid, which also incorporates a national park, faces environmental and financial challenges of its own, the IOC said.

“Economic factors, including low oil prices and exchange rate issues, could negatively impact games preparations and the government’s capacity to provide financial and other support,” according to the report. “Combined with revenue uncertainty related to ticketing and sponsorship, the budget presents risks.”

Raising money to build hotels and housing for athletes could be difficult if market conditions change, the IOC said.

Almaty was praised for a compact site with short travel times and “good snow conditions in an Alpine environment,” while Beijing can build on environmental awareness that started with the 2008 games.