Beijing to host 2022 Winter Olympics; first city to hold Summer and Winter Games

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Beijing will host the 2022 Winter Olympics, becoming the first city to hold a Summer Games and a Winter Games, after beating Almaty, Kazakhstan, in an International Olympic Committee members vote Friday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Beijing received 44 votes to Almaty’s 40.

“Just as with the Beijing 2008 Summer Games, the Olympic family has put its faith in Beijing again to deliver the athlete-centred, sustainable and economical Games we have promised,” the Beijing bid committee said in a statement. “This will be a memorable event at the foot of the Great Wall for the whole Olympic family, the athletes and the spectators that will further enhance the tremendous potential to grow winter sports in our country, in Asia and around the world.”

Beijing, site of the 2008 Olympics, plans to spread 2022 Olympic events across three clusters over 100 miles and use the Bird’s Nest stadium for Opening and Closing Ceremonies, as it did seven years ago. One of the lowest-latitude Winter Olympic hosts will supplement natural snow with man-made snow.

The Water Cube, where Michael Phelps won eight gold medals in 2008, will become the Ice Cube, used for curling.

It will mark the third straight Olympics in East Asia, following the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Almaty hoped to bring the Olympics to Kazakhstan for the first time and to the smallest nation by population since Athens 2004 (and Lillehammer 1994 for the Winter Games).

Also Friday, the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics were awarded to Lausanne, Switzerland, over Brasov, Romania, in an IOC members vote.

Watch Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic promo video

Both 2022 Winter Olympic bids made presentations to IOC members earlier Friday, starting with Almaty. The Kazakh bid team, which included Sochi Olympic bronze medalist figure skater Denis Ten, emphasized its bid’s advantages over Beijing — lots and lots of natural snow and a compact venue plan.

“Real snow,” “a winter wonderland” and “frostbite” were uttered.

All proposed venues were within a 30km radius of the Olympic Village, a statistic repeated in the presentation.

“No bus, train or car rides for hours,” Almaty bid vice chairman Andrey Kryukov said. “No one endures many hours just to enjoy snow and ice events in a single day.”

Almaty pointed out that it would become the first Central Asian nation to host an Olympics.

“Historic moment as a finalist,” Ten said. “A tremendous victory just by being here.”

Kazakhstan prime minister Karim Massimov delivered Almaty’s final speech, asking IOC members to “have faith in us.”

“Perhaps because we are unknown to most of you, some might consider us a risky choice,” he said, adding that all bid cities have a level of risk before concluding with, “Almaty is not a risky choice. We are a golden opportunity. We are a golden opportunity to prove that smaller, advancing nations can successfully host the Winter Games.”

Beijing came next, armed with a delegation including 7-foot, 6-inch retired basketball star Yao Ming, who also played an ice hockey goalie in a recorded promotional video. Its message often reminded IOC members of the city’s successful 2008 Olympic Games.

“China is a longtime friend and partner of the Olympic movement,” said China Olympic Committee vice president Yu Zaiqing, also an IOC vice president. “You trusted us then [in 2008], and we delivered on every expectation. We hope you will trust us now.”

The Beijing team said hosting the Winter Games would encourage 300 million Chinese to participate in ice and snow sports, building a foundation for the future of the world’s most populous nation.

It also addressed concerns. Beijing mayor Wang Anshun said there’s a $130 billion plan to enhance air quality for a “clean energy future.”

The bid’s venue plan spreads across some 100 miles, but Wang said a not-yet-finished high-speed train would take riders from venue to venue in as little as 20 minutes (and as much as 50 minutes, a promo video said last year).

Beijing’s bid would require man-made snow, but speakers said more than half of the country has below-freezing temperatures, the whole country has more than 500 ski resorts and Beijing has 17 ice rinks.

“Beijing 2022 is a Games about the future of winter sport,” Yu said. “We hope it will have a future of millions of new fans, a future of new sponsors, partners, a future of new athletes, opportunities.”

The 2024 Olympic host will be voted on in 2017. Budapest, Hamburg, Paris, Rome and a U.S. city are stated bidders so far.

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Maria Sharapova appears set to miss Tokyo Olympics

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Maria Sharapova, who would have a difficult time qualifying for the Olympics next year, committed to play an event in California the week of the Tokyo Games.

Sharapova is scheduled to play World Team Tennis matches in California during the Olympic tennis events in late July, according to a press release. Sharapova’s longtime agent hasn’t responded to a message seeking confirmation that she is ruling out the Tokyo Games.

Sharapova, 32 and the 2012 Olympic silver medalist, was barred from the Rio Games due to her 15-month meldonium suspension in 2016 and 2017. That alone could rule her ineligible for Tokyo, given the World Anti-Doping Agency’s sanctions against Russia on Monday.

Sharapova is ranked No. 131 after a season shortened by shoulder surgery. She would have to be among the top four ranked Russian women after the French Open in June for possible automatic Olympic qualification. She is currently the 14th Russian.

Olympic eligibility rules include minimum participation requirements in Fed Cup, which Sharapova hasn’t done in this Olympic cycle, though exceptions can be made.

Sharapova’s passion for the Olympics is well documented.

She carried the Russian flag into the London 2012 Opening Ceremony and carried the Olympic flame into Fisht Stadium at the Sochi 2014 Opening Ceremony, where she worked for NBC Olympics.

“It was the one thing that my parents allowed me to watch on TV late into the evening was the Olympics,” Sharapova said in 2017. “I grew up watching figure skating and hockey and a little bit of tennis. … Just capturing the Opening Ceremonies and seeing all the countries and the little hats that they wore, and I, as a little girl, I just imagined that maybe it would be me. But I never, ever thought that I would be carrying the flag.

“I received that [flag] honor in a text message, which is a very Russian way of communicating. I originally thought it was a joke, a big fat joke. Then I showed it to my mother, and she [said], no, they probably wouldn’t joke like that.”

In February 2016, Sharapova entered a Fed Cup tie, despite saying she was injured, in order to receive Olympic eligibility. One month later, her failed drug test was announced.

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Russia banned from Olympics, world champs for 4 years; athletes could compete as neutrals

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Russia is banned from the next two Olympics and other major sports events for four years, though its athletes could still compete without representing the country if cleared by anti-doping authorities.

Russia’s hosting of world championships in Olympic sports also face being stripped after the World Anti-Doping Agency executive committee approved a full slate of recommended sanctions for tampering with a Moscow laboratory database.

Russian athletes will be allowed to compete in major events — including world championships — only if they are not implicated in positive doping tests or their data was not manipulated, according to the WADA ruling. “In this circumstance, they may not represent the Russian Federation,” according to a WADA release.

“While I understand the calls for a blanket ban on all Russian athletes whether or not they are implicated by the data, it was the unanimous view of the CRC [compliance review committee], which includes an athlete, that in this case, those who could prove their innocence should not be punished, and I am pleased that the WADA ExCo [executive committee] agreed with this,” WADA CRC chairman Jonathan Taylor said.

There are 145 unnamed athletes within WADA’s “target group of most suspicious athletes” from 2012-15 who would not be allowed to compete at the Olympics, Taylor said, adding that it’s possible those names will be made public. About one-third of them are still active.

Russia’s anti-doping agency can appeal the decision within 21 days. Russia previously signaled it would appeal the ruling.

“The decision will come into effect only when it becomes final ie when either RUSADA accepts it or it is upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport,” a WADA spokesperson said in an email.

Russia avoided blanket bans for the Rio and PyeongChang Olympics after a state-run doping program was exposed by media and WADA investigations after Russia hosted the 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

Approved Russian athletes competed as neutrals — “Olympic Athletes from Russia” — including in team sports in PyeongChang. Those Russians combined to earn two gold medals (figure skater Alina Zagitova and men’s hockey) and 17 overall, compared to the leading 33 Russia earned at the Sochi Olympics before medals were stripped for doping.

“Will Russian athletes be accepted as Olympic Athletes from Russia?” during the ban, Taylor said. “No, they are neutral athletes, which means not representatives of any country. Not representatives of Russia.”

Going forward, “they cannot use the name of the country in the name of the team,” WADA president-elect Witold Bańka told The Associated Press.

Two of the 168 Russians who competed in PyeongChang failed drug tests and were punished for doping.

More recent evidence shows that Russian authorities tampered with a Moscow laboratory database to hide hundreds of potential doping cases and falsely shift the blame onto whistleblowers, WADA investigators and the International Olympic Committee said last month. “Flagrant manipulation” of the Moscow lab data was “an insult to the sporting movement worldwide,” the IOC said last month.

“Russia was afforded every opportunity to get its house in order … but it chose instead to continue in its stance of deception and denial,” WADA president Craig Reedie said.

Russia will be allowed to participate in the Youth Olympics in Lausanne, Switzerland, that open Jan. 9.

WADA’s inability to fully expel Russia from the Tokyo Olympics and 2022 Beijing Winter Games frustrated the doping watchdog’s vice president.

“I’m not happy with the decision we made today. But this is as far as we could go,” said Linda Helleland, a Norwegian lawmaker who serves on WADA executive committee and has long pushed for a tougher line against Russia. “This is the biggest sports scandal the world has ever seen. I would expect now a full admission from the Russians and for them to apologize on all the pain all the athletes and sports fans have experienced.”

Although the IOC has called for the strongest possible sanctions, it wants those sanctions directed at Russian state authorities rather than athletes or Olympic officials.

“To allow Russia to escape a complete ban is yet another devastating blow to clean athletes, the integrity of sport and the rule of law,” USADA CEO Travis Tygart said in a statement. “And, in turn, the reaction by all those who value sport should be nothing short of a revolt against this broken system to force reform.”

Russia’s Olympic champion women’s handball team is currently competing at the world championships in Japan. Its next match is Tuesday against Montenegro. Russia has been the scheduled host for the world luge championships in Sochi in mid-February.

The “major sports” events that fall under WADA’s sanctions do not include European Championships or other non-world championships events such as tennis’ upcoming Australian Open.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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TIMELINE: Russia’s recent history of sports doping