Kuala Lumpur: The International Olympic Committee (IOC) must choose on Friday between Almaty in Kazakhstan and the Chinese capital Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Here is how the two bids size up:
The Chinese capital has all the resources of the world`s second biggest economy and the diplomatic clout of an emerging superpower. It can boast of a successful 2008 Olympics and Beijing wants to become the first city to hold both the summer and winter Games. It is the strong favourite even though the venues are spread far and wide and there will be a heavy reliance on artificial snow.
The Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan, home to just 16 million people, has become an oil power that has fuelled its modernisation. Like other states in the region it wants major sporting events to draw international attention. It held the Winter Asian Games in 2011 and will stage the Winter University Games in 2017. All the venues are within 33 kilometres (20 miles) of Almaty and the government can say that snow at the Games will be "real".
Human rights groups have doubts about both countries. But as they are the only candidates -- four European cities withdrew because of the cost and political reasons -- the IOC has little choice.A sensitive question for the IOC after Russia spent more than $50 billion on the 2014 Sochi Winter Games and IOC president Thomas Bach began to place great emphasis on a sustainable Olympics.
Almaty estimates that it will spend $3.6 billion, with $1.75 billion on running the Games and $1.85 billion on construction. Fifty-eight percent of the construction will be paid for by the state. The three Olympic villages would become public housing after the Games.
Beijing has a lot more to build and its sites are more spread out. But it estimated a cost of just $3.06 billion -- $1.55 billion on operating the Games and $1.51 billion on construction, including three Olympic villages. The Chinese estimate does not include huge projects such as a $5 billion, 200-kilometre high-speed railway from Beijing to Zhangjiakou, the mid-size city which would serve some of the mountain venues. The Alpine skiing will be at Yanqing, 90 kilometres northwest of Beijing, on sites that are not yet built.-- Beijing says six of the competition venues are ready and six are being built or will be built.
Speed skating, figure skating, ice hockey and curling will take place in Beijing which will also hold the opening ceremony.
There is little snow in the capital, so Alpine skiing, ski-jumping, snowboarding and Nordic skiing will be located at Yanqing and Zhangjiakou, some distance from Beijing. China has promised that transport will not be a problem and that the new development will spark a fledgling winter sports industry in the country.
Almaty has vaunted its compact Olympic plan, with many of the venues already built or renovated from the 2011 Asian Games. The Baluan Sholak sports centre dates from 1967 but was modernised in 2011.
The bid committee says that no competition will be more than 35 kilometres from an Olympic village and no athlete will have to travel more than 35 minutes to compete. They say eight of the 14 venues are already built and three will be built even if Almaty does not get the Games.
Ice hockey, figure skating, short-track speed skating, luge, bobsleigh, ski-jumping and curling will be in Almaty. Skiing, snowboard events and traditional speed skating will be at the Ak Bulak, Tabagan and Medeu mountain venues.Almaty and Beijing both hope to sell about two million tickets for the events. The Kazakh city is guaranteeing 25,000 hotel rooms for 2022, the Chinese capital 42,000.The IOC has identified risks in both locations that could hurt their chances of a successful bid.
Almaty`s reliance on oil revenues:
"Economic factors, including low oil prices and exchange rate issues, could negatively impact Games preparations and the government`s capacity to provide financial and other support."
Beijing`s potential lack of snow:
"Substantial reliance on snowmaking in all mountain venues especially Yanqing. There could be no snow outside of the racecourse, especially in Yanqing, impacting the visual perception of the snow sports setting."