Almaty or Beijing, who will win race for 2022 Olympics?

Beijing: With less than five months to go before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) chooses the host city for the 2022 Winter Olympics, sports officials and advisers have made their predictions about the race between Beijing and Almaty in Kazakhstan.

“Both cities have the capability to host the Games. And the question is which city is more suitable for the 2022 Winter Games,” former world volleyball chief, and a former Chinese Olympic Committee vice president, Wei Jizhong told Xinhua.

Almaty and Beijing are the only cities left in the bid race for the 2022 Games after Stockholm, Krakow, Lviv and Oslo all pulled out.

The IOC evaluation commission will visit Beijing from March 24 to 28 before a final decision is scheduled to be made at the IOC session in Kuala Lumpur on July 31.

According to China’s Lu Shengrong, former world badminton chief and IOC member for 1996-2001, experience is an advantage for Beijing where 2008 Summer Olympics were staged successfully.

“I am optimistic. Beijing has an advantage, or experience, that other cities don’t,” Lu said.

Lu stressed the “smoothest communication and cooperation between the host city and the IOC in the Olympic history” during Beijing’s preparation for the 2008 Summer Olympics.

“Our bid is in line with the IOC’s 2020 Agenda,” said Yang Yang, who is an IOC member and China’s first ever winter Olympic gold winner.

As Yang said, the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games bid committee has paid high attention to complying with IOC’s reforms.

In January, Beijing handed over its official bid to IOC promising to deliver an “athletes-centred, sustainable and economical” Olympics.

According to the bid book, venues from the Beijing 2008 Olympics, including the Water Cube Aquatics Centre and the National Indoor Stadium, will be used for the 2022 Games.

And some snow facilities will be built in Zhangjiakou, some 200 kilometres northwest of Beijing, if the Chinese capital wins the bid.

Construction of a high-speed railway line between Beijing and Zhangjiakou will start this year, which will reduce the travel time between the two cities from more than three hours to about 50 minutes.

Former NBA star Yao Ming, an official ambassador of the 2022 bid, said Beijing’s infrastructure and experience made it “a prime candidate”.

Almaty, the former capital and commercial centre of Kazakhstan in central Asia, has already made two unsuccessful attempts to land the event. It lost out to last year’s host Sochi for 2014 and Pyeongchang for 2018, reports Xinhua.

Perhaps its undeveloped infrastructure and lack of experiences in hosting major events was the main reason that Almaty did not even make the shortlists for the last two times.

Almaty has co-hosted with Astana the 2011 Asian Winter Games and will stage the Winter University Games in 2017. But the magnitude of those events was no match with the Olympic Games.

Another drawback is that the weathered and sometimes single lane roads linking the mountains, especially the Ak Bulak cluster, and downtown could cause logistics challenges. But with the 2017 plan for the Universiade, Almaty officials claim that this will be addressed.

The merits of the Almaty 2022 bid, however, are equally impressive — compactness and sustainability. The merits are fully in line with the Olympic Agenda 2020, the series of 40 reforms passed by the IOC last December.

“We want to fit the Olympic Games to the city, not to create the city for the Olympic Games,” Almaty bid committee vice chairman Andrey Kryukov said.

Almaty claims to have the most compact bid in three decades, with all venues within a 35-kilometre radius of the main Olympics Village. It means the logistics convenience for athletes, media and delegates.

In addition, eight of the 14 proposed venues are already in place and another three are being constructed for the 2017 Winter Universiade.

The IOC completed its five-day inspection tour to Almaty on February 18. The evaluation commission headed by Alexander Zhukov was impressed with Almaty 2022’s efforts to adapt to the Olympic Agenda 2020.

“The Almaty bid committee took full advantage of the flexibility offered by Agenda 2020 to optimise bid proposals,” said the Russian IOC member.

“They advanced goals of sustainability, legacy and cost containment without compromising on the core requirements for the Olympic Games.”

Whatever happens, the 2022 race will end in another Games in Asia, meaning that three successive Olympics will be held on the world’s largest continent, following Pyeongchang 2018 and Tokyo 2020.