After garnering international praise for producing the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, China's government is working toward having Beijing and nearby cold-weather tourist destination Zhangjiakou jointly bid to co-host the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Zheng Lirong, vice mayor of Zhangjiakou, a city in Zhangbei county of Hebei province, confirmed the plans to try to host the quadrennial winter extravaganza, according to Sina News.
Zhanjiakou lies about 124 miles northwest of Beijing, a distance that would allow spectators to enjoy Zhangjiakou's natural winter climate and geography as well as Beijing's state-of-the-art venue infrastructure as well as experience in hosting games.
Though Zhangjiakou is not currently one of China's big-name cities, the area's increasing tourist numbers show the potential to become one of China's tourist capitals and could be suitable to host the international sporting event come 2022, supporters say. From January of this year to November, Zhangjiakou, affectionately dubbed the "Four Seasons tourism treasure" for its yearlong attractions, had 19.16 million tourists, making it the most visited city in Hebei province. Year-to-date, those tourists spent 11.5 billion yuan ($1.8 billion).
Although Hebei province includes the nation's capital, which played host to the 2008 Summer Games, the province stretches north to Zhangbei county, the northernmost part of which is near the southern edge of Inner Mongolia, the Batou hills and mountains.
In a test run for how winter sports would fare in the area, the second Zhangbei Snow Cultural Tourism Festival opened last week, and is running smoothly.
This is not the first time China has vied to host a Winter Olympics. The city of Harbin, known for its annual ice sculpture festivals and frigid weather, seemed like a good candidate for the 2018 Winter Games until China's General Administration of Sport (GAS) declined to allow the city to continue with its bid. At the time the GAS did not think Harbin had a good chance of winning the bid, and did not want to have another failed bid after losing the 2010 Games.
The two-city bid will likely have the support of GAS this time around, but being selected by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) will still require a lot of lobbying. The IOC is guided by a principle of geographical rotation, and because the 2018 Winter Olympics will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, the chances that the 2022 Games will be held at another Asian nation are slim.
Enthusiasm and patriotism in China was at an all-time high leading up to and during the 2008 Summer Games, so winning the 2022 Winter Games bid would boost the morale of China's increasingly divided population.