KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Organizers of Almaty’s unsuccessful bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics vowed to push ahead with their ambitious plan to turn their city into a winter wonderland despite losing out to Beijing.
The Kazakhstan bid team’s organizers had hoped that staging the Winter Olympics would put their city on the international sporting map but were adamant the former Soviet state had already achieved that just by throwing their hat in the ring.
“By bidding for the Winter Games we showed the world the amazing progress that Kazakhstan has made since its independence,” said Andrey Kryukov, the vice chairman of Almaty’s bid team.
“This alone is a major victory for our country.”
The financial clout of oil-producing Kazakhstan has already enabled it to stage the Asian Winter Games and it is preparing to host the Winter Universiade in 2017.
Almaty sees sport not only as a way to promote the country but also to develop businesses beyond the energy sector.
“Consistent with our long-term winter sports development plan, we will continue to develop our city into a winter sports hub for all of Central Asia,” Kryukov told reporters.
“Our region will continue to benefit from our city’s abundance of winter sports venues and we remain committed to bringing major events to our city.”
Almaty bid for the 2014 Winter Olympics but failed to make it past the initial phase and was given little hope of winning the election when it was one of six original bidders for 2022.
But when the four European candidates all dropped out Almaty was left facing just one rival, albeit the Chinese capital.
Their case was strengthened when the IOC introduced a range of incentives to attract more bidders for future Games and Almaty adopted some of them for its proposals, even though the new rules don’t come into force until the 2024 Summer Olympics.
The Kazakhstan Prime Minister Karim Massimov also delivered a powerful speech that struck at the heart of the IOC’s ideals.
He reminded the members, who include sports administrators, captains of industry and even royalty, that they had a long tradition of awarding the Games to the underdogs.
“It was the IOC who took the Games to Tokyo 20 years after World War Two, to Moscow during the Cold War,” Massimov said.
”You were right to do this. Today we ask you to have faith in us, faith in Kazakhstan.
“Almaty is golden opportunity to show smaller, advancing nations can host the Games.”
Although China won, becoming the first city to be awarded both the Summer and Winter Olympics, the final vote was closer than expected with Beijing getting 44 votes and Almaty 40.
“We extend our congratulations to Beijing,” Kryukov said. “While we are disappointed, we are also grateful to the IOC for giving us the opportunity to present our vision to the world.”
Reporting by Julian Linden; editing by Martyn Herman