Beijing’s win draws mixed reactions in Steamboat Springs | SteamboatToday.com

Beijing’s win draws mixed reactions in Steamboat Springs

Kidd: Decision is unfortunate

The Olympic torch blazes in Sochi, Russia in 2014.

— In Billy Kidd's eyes, politics has always been the bane of the athlete.

The Olympic Alpine skiing medalist and Steamboat Springs icon said there was a game within the Games when he was competing — outside influences that could distract athletes and even ruin their careers.

Many athletes and hangers-on in his day were more concerned with getting the blue blazer with an Olympic logo than they were actually competing well.
 The problem, he said, has continued to grow.

The most recent example came with the news early Friday morning that Beijing was selected to play host to the 2022 Winter Olympics.

"It's just really disappointing, and the decision is so unfortunate," he said of the choice, which was made official when International Olympic Committee members voted, 44-40, to select the generally snow-less Chinese capital to play host to the Olympics over Almaty, Kazakhstan.

It's not about if Beijing can do it but if it should.

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"Beijing can clean up the air. It can make enough snow. But is that really going to be the best place to have the Olympics?" Kidd said. "It's unfortunate we're seeing so many decisions that affect the world that are not what's best for the world."

Beijing is known for many things, including playing host to a successful 2008 Summer Olympics. It's not, however, known for its winter sports.

Many skiing and snowboarding events will take place entirely on manmade snow because the mountains in Beijing rarely receive the real thing.

Still, many Steamboat Springs Olympic hopefuls tried to keep an optimistic attitude about the location. They hope to be at those Olympics and to climb on the medal stand while there.

"I'm not too worried about anything other than showing up," said Nik Baden, a slopestyle snowboarder who get his first X Games start last winter.

He's already had a taste of what may be in store for athletes in February 2022.

Baden competed in a big air snowboarding event in the Bird's Nest — the Beijing National Stadium that was the centerpiece of those 2008 Summer Olympics and likely will be featured in the 2022 version, as well.

He spent free time checking out local markets and soaking up some of the area's flavor. The excitement of the fans who packed the stadium stood out for him. He also said the competition repeatedly ran into problems as snow melted off the track.

"It's a hard place to have a snowboard event, but there was nothing negative from the people there," he said. "Everyone was super excited for the event. Hopefully, it will have that same vibe for the Olympics."

Beijing ended up in the top spot at least partially due to the extreme difficulty other proposed hosts had in winning local support for their bids. Oslo, Norway, was one of three finalists but withdrew its bid in October as concerns among the population there deepened. Munich, Germany, Stockholm, Sweden, and Krakow, Poland, all also cancelled promising bids for similar reasons.

In the end, Beijing only had to beat out Almaty, and given those choices, some athletes were happy with the results.

"We had teammates who were in Almaty for the Junior World Championships. They didn't report very positive things," Nordic combined Olympic hopeful Adam Loomis said. "With Beijing, certainly there's been a lot of negative talk, but with the venues so far up in the mountains, it could be pretty cool so I'm optimistic."

As for Kidd, he admitted his opinion only means so much as he's never skied in any of the proposed Olympic venues. But he couldn't help but get fired up at what he said is another example of underhanded dealing and politics in sports.

"So many of the officials, they've lost focus on what their job is, which is to give athletes the chance to compete," he said. "They get so caught up in wearing their own blue blazer with their badges that they forget about the importance of their decision making, and it's too bad."

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @JReich9