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Borat should carry torch for Almaty 2022 Winter Olympics

But Beijing will once again wind up buying the Games

By
October 7, 2014, 12:03 pm
Borat (wiki commons).

Borat (wiki commons).

Democracy and the Olympics don’t mix.

Colorado voters loudly sent that message to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) more than 40 years ago when voters rejected public financing for the 1976 Denver Winter Olympics, which had already been awarded. Colorado remains the only place to ever give back the Games.

Last week, Oslo, Norway, was the latest potential host for the 2022 Winter Olympics to drop out of what’s become a comically botched bidding process and is now down to just two authoritarian regimes in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and Beijing, China. Don’t expect public-financing votes there.

Similarly, ordinary Russians had very little say in Vladimir Putin’s $51 billion Winter Olympic extravaganza in Sochi. And now that price tag may be scaring off more bidders than a Russian tank column rolling into Crimea soon after the Games.

But that too may be a valuable lesson corrupt IOC members will no doubt ignore. Award the Games to a regional bully and they may get so high on Olympic-torch fumes that they invade neighbors and wink and nod at the shooting down of commercial airliners.

In 2012, Colorado officials, including the governor and the mayor of Denver, were seriously interested in hosting the 2022 Games. Thank goodness the U.S. Olympic Committee stalled that process while it figured out TV revenues and whether to go after the Summer or Winter Olympics. How about neither?

The soonest Colorado could once again jump into the mix for the Winter Games would be a bid for 2026, but many politicians, ski industry officials and conservationists would like to see a complete rethinking of the Games in the wake of the Sochi debacle.

All of my reasons for not attending Sochi after working at the last three Winter Games (Salt Lake City, Torino and Vancouver) panned out except for security concerns, which were thankfully controlled by an overwhelming and unobtrusive (unless you were protesting) police presence. Foreign guests beware there now as that apparatus has moved on to Ukraine.

Depending on where you divide Europe and Asia, Sochi is either in far southeastern Europe or far southwestern Asia, which means that there will be an unprecedented three straight Winter Games in Asia — Pyeongchang, South Korea, in 2018, and China or Kazakhstan in 2022.

My vote is for Almaty, if for no other reason than to see if comedian Sasha Baron Cohen carries the torch dressed as Kazakh journalist Borat Sagdiyev. Plus, I think the Kazakhs will be a lot less lavish than Beijing, and the whole spectacle needs to be seriously dialed back.

Beijing already hosted the Summer Games in 2008 (no place has ever hosted both summer and winter); it’s only 669 miles from Pyeongchang; only has a handful of icy “skiing” hills some 120 miles away; and by then may be embroiled in the biggest pro-Democracy protests of all time (actually, that might be a plus for Beijing). It’s doubtful Kazakhstan, which has had the same autocratic leader since the fall of the Soviet Union, will see any such popular unrest by then.

I get that the IOC wants to spread winter sports around the globe, especially if corrupt dictators are waiting with piles of public cash (North Korea 2026, anyone?), but they’re increasingly alienating the developed world – where much of the best winter-sports infrastructure resides – by focusing so much on fringe markets.

Granted, we’re talking fringe markets with huge upside for the industry. Back before the global recession hit, I did a story on Colorado ski executives traveling the globe to help develop resorts in Russia, India and China. Seems some of the world’s highest mountains are seriously underserved in terms of snow-sports infrastructure.

But a lot of that has to do with how remote and politically unstable these places are. Only one of the three resorts I wrote about, Rosa Khutor near Sochi, reached its full potential, and that was due solely to the 2014 Games and the willingness of the Putin kleptocracy to infuse insane amounts of cash into the area – money far better spent on infrastructure elsewhere in Russia.

The other two — Himalayan Ski Village in northern India (just 760 miles straight south of Almaty but in the towering Himalayas), and PingTian Resorts in far western China (nearly 2,000 miles and a five-hour flight from Beijing) – have stalled for a variety of reasons.

Not the least of which, I suspect, is the fact that both ski areas would be in the middle of regions wracked by insurgencies pitting predominantly Muslim minorities against Hindu and Buddhist majorities. Still, if the idea is to develop winter-sports infrastructure where growing middle-class populations actually will want to ski long-term, it makes more sense to host the Games there.

The problem is that bloated IOC corporate toadies — the same ones who honed their craft at the wildly corrupt Salt Lake City Games 12 years ago — have fully bought into the notion of holding Winter Olympics in improbable coastal areas or far from real mountains, because they want the events near major cities where they can hold court in four- and five-star hotels.

Which is why the 2022 Games will likely go to Beijing, and 2026 will be inside a snow dome in Doha, Qatar.

Editor’s note: Next up I’ll blog about what mountain communities with real ski slopes in actual mountainous areas like Colorado should do about the horribly misguided path the Winter Olympics have taken in a warming and increasingly corrupt world.

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David O. Williams

Managing Editor at RealVail
David O. Williams is an award-winning energy, environmental, political, entertainment, outdoor and sports writer based in the Vail Valley. His work has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Denver Post, LA Weekly, ESPN.com, SKI Magazine, Powder and People Magazine. He also regularly contributes to The Colorado Statesman and Atlantic Media's RouteFifty.com.

One Response to Borat should carry torch for Almaty 2022 Winter Olympics

  1. KZnomad Reply

    October 7, 2014 at 11:28 pm

    As one of the locals, in KZ, I have to say we have many more places, in dire, grave states, in need of proper investment.

    For instance, we just passed the “gas crisis” which manifested itself as inability to buy petrol for your vehicle at the gas station. Who would have thought that this rather oil rich country of “strong” 17 mil population was on the brink of going amish style, completely. The gov is pathetic: for more than 20 years since independence we did not get to see any significant infrastructure object being launched. Indeed, we’ve got only three oil refineries that we inherited when USSR collapsed. Not a single one was built since that time. The quality of produce from those is so poor that they have to add a lot to make its octane number anywhere near 80 where your regular is at least 95 RON. And they collectively cover only 50% of the demand. Everything else has to be imported.

    The biggest oil field that we have here is not producing a pint of oil. That project was supposed to come online years ago. But it is being delayed every year for couple of years. Yes, you read that right. Besides, the joint venture of multinationals that our govt contracted to develop that project has all the high ground when it comes to negotiations. We, the poeple, do not have a clue under what contractual conditions our govt negotiated the deal. We heard that we own only 16.8% of the stake in the JSC and we will get hold of only 5% of the oil for first decade of production from unreliable sources. Staggering. That is because we do not have any means of extracting the oil by ourselves. No tech, no education, no labor, no nothing. Yet our govt has the audacity to laud themselves as world beating innovation hub in Central Asia. What a load of bollocks. The King is naked. It is all show. Bling Bling with nothing to backup the talk.

    And all the money credited to our sovereign country was burried in the concrete that was used to build eye candy in the capital-Astana. Other cities were deprived of glamour and glitter that our never changing leader has poured on his toy project, the place he lives in. The rest of us….well, there is hardly any work outside of few cities. You travel hundred kilometers out the boundary of any city you get straight into middle ages. No need to go to museums, people live that shit. No potable water, no gas, no electricity. The life expectancy is lowest in the region. Men die at around 55. The economy is crude resource export oriented. With all the reported breakthroughs, we just got to the levels, before USSR collapsed. And those in their 40ies know that it was better back then. The life quality, education, healthcare, social benefits. Everything was much much better. Even though the rest of the world has moved significantly, massively forwards, we are standing still, at best. In fact, we are going backwards. Corruption is a deadly virus that can not be cured. Like cancer. Govt runs on deficit budget. The post high school education is laughable. The healthcare is being ruined by day, since we lack in human resources trained to do proper medical jobs. For example, 100s of kids were infused with HIV during blood transfusions in one clinic in major city. You want to come here to get cheap medical treatment. Think twice. Corrupt regime that is dominating the 95% of people. High and growing rates of crime amongst youngs. Rising suicidal stats. Democracy, where there never has been a second tour or real alternatives for that matter. Only state funded muppets that handover every vote they get to the dominant party. Who needs them when primary candidate wins with no less than 90% of votes every single time and twice just to make sure. Nepotism. No middle class. Growing gap between the 5% and 95%. Complete brainwashing in totally govt run media. People scared and reserved to talk straight, without thinking of consequences, for so long that you get this trait ingrained the day you are born on genetic level. Orwell’s 1984 and all that.

    Yet, we are contesting with others to run some winter Olympics. You know why? For that it takes a lot of money to build all the infrastructure for the events, and most of the time, the bigger the pie the bigger the portions that are stolen and easier for the govt to justify the spending infront of poor us, saying: look at it, are you not proud of our work ?! how come, even the western media is giving us full marks…This place is not quite yet a shithole that most of the Africa is but we are running there so fast and so resolutely that I want to immigrate as soon as today, every day. Life is so short and being the only guardian of it I am forced to because I am not an animal.

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