KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee (IOC) kicked off proceedings for the election of the 2022 winter Olympics host city on Friday with favorites Beijing facing Kazakhstan’s Almaty.
The Chinese capital, banking on the country’s financial clout and the city’s past Olympic experience from hosting the summer 2008 Games, has emerged as the clear frontrunner as it looks to become the first city to be awarded both summer and winter Games.
China’s proposal will see the indoor ice sports taking place in venues around Beijing, including some that were used in 2008 such as the iconic Bird’s Nest stadium and the Water Cube, while the outdoor skiing and sliding sports will be held at the mountain venues of Yanqing and Zhangjiakou.
Beijing’s biggest drawback, identified by the IOC, is a lack of snow at the mountain venues, which are some 90km and 160km respectively away from Beijing, forcing organizers to create tonnes of artificial snow.
Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong is leading the delegation in its final presentation to the IOC members later on Friday.
Almaty, which made a failed attempt to host for the 2014 Olympics back in 2006, has made up some ground in recent months with a compact bid that sees all sports taking place within a 35-kilometre radius of the former Soviet winter sports hub.
Plenty of natural snow and a trademark winter setting have won points for the bid as the Central Asian nation is hoping to get the nod ahead of China and establish itself on the international sports map.
Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Massimov, who heads the bid, will attempt to convince IOC members that any financial concerns, identified in the IOC’s evaluation report, are unfounded with a part of the country’s $70 billion oil fund at the organizers’ disposal.
Some 85 members of the 100 IOC will be voting at the 128th session in the Malaysian capital with a straight majority sufficient to decide the outcome.
The IOC President Thomas Bach has elected not to vote along while a handful of other members, including FIFA president Sepp Blatter, were not present.
(This story has been refiled to fix spelling of Yandong in fourth paragraph)
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Julian Linden