ALMATY, Kazakhstan (AP) - The Central Asian city of Almaty is vying with Beijing to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. The winner will be selected Friday in a vote of the International Olympic Committee in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Here’s a quick look at Almaty’s bid:
Population: 1.55 million.
Previous Olympics: Almaty applied to host the 2014 Winter Olympics, but did not make the final list of three candidates. Kazakhstan would be the first country in Central Asia to host an Olympics.
Major sports events hosted: 2011 Asian Winter Games, 2015 world sprint speedskating championships. Almaty will host the 2017 Winter University Games.
Number of venues: 11 across two zones, one in the city, one in the mountains. All are within 30 kilometers (18 miles) of the city, meaning lower travel times than any recent Winter Olympics. Eight of the venues already exist and will be renovated for the Olympics, with two more under construction for the 2017 Winter University Games. A 12,000-seat Olympic Arena for figure skating and short-track speedskating would be purpose-built for the games, plus some temporary facilities at ski resorts.
Projected cost: $1.7 billion, with another $4.5 billion for infrastructure upgrades, which bid officials say will be spent regardless of whether Almaty hosts the games.
Pros: The use of existing venues chimes with the IOC’s stated desire to cut the costs of the Olympics, while the compact layout is a stark contrast to Beijing, where some venues will be as far as 160 kilometers (100 miles) from the city. Good natural snowfall, unlike Beijing.
Cons: Name recognition lags far behind Beijing. Kazakhstan’s economy is heavily reliant on the price of oil, which is currently low. Political concerns because longtime president Nursultan Nazarbayev is 75 and has no clear successor. Picking Kazakhstan is likely to rouse opposition from activists over human rights, with a repeat of Sochi’s gay rights controversy possible.
IOC evaluation report: Praised Almaty’s compactness and low travel times between venues, mountain setting and natural snow. However, the IOC expressed concern that Almaty’s budget could be vulnerable to economic shocks. The IOC also cited Kazakhstan’s “limited experience with international sports events” and said it would need “a high degree of support” from the IOC and other bodies.
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