July 30, 2015 / 7:49 AM / 2 years ago

Almaty says not snowed under by issues facing Beijing

3 Min Read

Kazakstan's bid team speak at a news conference about Almaty's bid for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, July 29, 2015.Olivia Harris

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Organizers of Almaty's bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics fired a thinly veiled shot at Beijing's proposed plans on Thursday, offering a sneak preview into their strategy to win selection ahead of the Chinese capital.

Although the Kazakhstan delegation was careful not to directly comment on their rival's bid, which is strictly against International Olympic Committee (IOC) rules, the inference was clear.

Beijing, who hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics, remain favorites to be awarded the Games, despite relying on artificial snow in their nearest mountains and the staging of some indoor events at venues used seven years ago.

Almaty, by comparison, is a relative winter wonderland, which gets blanketed by natural snow every year, a point the bid committee hopes will tip the balance in their favor when the IOC selects the 2022 host city in Kuala Lumpur on Friday.

"Our concept is based on existing winter sport venues, not venues which will be modified from summer to winter sports venues," Almaty 2022 vice-chairman Andrey Kryukov told a news conference on Thursday.

"It's real winter sports venues which exist in our town.

"Our town is a real winter town with a real winter sports culture, real nature, real mountains and real snow."

Almaty, who applied to bid for the 2014 Winter Olympics but failed to make it onto the shortlist of candidate cities, have made no secret of what they consider to be their best asset, adopting the slogan "keeping it real".

Kazakhstan has already hosted the Asian Winter Games but the motivation for hosting the Olympics is to thrust the former Soviet state into the international spotlight.

Kazakhstan is Central Asia's largest economy and the second-largest former Soviet oil producer after Russia, but wants to develop businesses beyond the energy sector as oil prices fall.

"This bid is about more than sport for us... it's about our future," Kryukov said.

"Almaty 2022 is directly aligned to our country's long-term strategy... which was designed to position Kazakhstan as one of the top global economies by 2050."

While stressing Almaty had the money to pay for the Games, Mayor Akhmetzhan Yessimov said the 2022 bid was based on a low-cost strategy because most of the venues and infrastructure had already been built, a theme the IOC is likely to support.

The IOC has already introduced a range of new rules to make it cheaper for countries to bid and host the Olympics after all but two of the candidates for 2022 dropped out.

"Kazakhstan has the financial strength to deliver a great Winter Games without spending tens of billions of dollars," Yessimov said.

"Almaty 2022 will serve as a model for future host cities and prove that similar developing nations can host the Games affordably and sustainably."

Editing by John O'Brien

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