Ian Johnson
Ian Johnson

Beijing has only Almaty, Kazakhstan left as a competitor for the Olympic Wintergames in 2022. But many academics and environmentalists describe an upcoming disaster for the region, writes author Ian Johnson in the New York Times.

Ian Johnson:

According to Beijing’s bid, the environmental impact of the Games would be “ecofriendly” and “sustainable.” In their three-volume filing with the I.O.C., organizers say they will use renewable energy and sustainable building materials. Forest cover lost to ski slopes or other facilities would be offset by new tree plantings elsewhere, in compliance with I.O.C.requirements.

“As there are abundant water resources near the ski resorts, and the melted snow will be recycled,” the bid says, “snow-making during the Games will not have any negative impact on the local ecosystem.”

“Abundant” is not a word often used to describe Beijing’s water supply. Although some parts of the city receive up to 23 inches of rain a year, the mountainous area where the ski resorts are being built and the Games would be held receives 15 to 16 inches, making it semiarid.

Two-thirds of that precipitation falls in the summer. In December and January, areas like Chongli, where the reservoir is, receive about a tenth of an inch of precipitation, meaning they are usually bare throughout the winter.

“It just doesn’t snow in Beijing,” said Zhang Junfeng, an independent water expert who has written and published widely on Beijing’s water troubles. “People get ideas by watching television and sports and think it’s a great pastime, but it’s not sustainable.”

More in the New York Times.

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