KUALA LUMPUR, July 31 (Reuters) - Organisers of Almaty’s bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics made an impassioned plea to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Friday, urging members to resist the temptation of choosing their bigger rival Beijing.
During their one-hour presentation in downtown Kuala Lumpur, the high-powered delegation from Kazakhstan asked the 85 IOC members who will decide the vote to send a positive message to all developing countries and award the Games to a Central Asian nation for the first time.
The Kazakhstan Prime Minister Karim Massimov told the members that the IOC has a long tradition of taking the Games to new regions and he urged them to do the same with Almaty.
“We ask you to have faith in us, faith in Kazakhstan,” Massimov said.
“Almaty is not a risky choice for 2022. We are a golden opportunity to show smaller, advancing nations can host the Games, to give athletes the true winter experience they deserve.”
The perceived underdogs in the two-horse race, the Almaty team provided assurances that they had the money to pay for the Games but vowed to keep costs low, which looms as a decisive factor after four of the six original candidates withdrew.
The IOC has introduced a raft of new rules to make it cheaper for countries to bid and host the Games and while the reforms do not kick in until the 2024 Summer Olympics host is chosen, Almaty has made that a centrepiece of their proposal.
All but two of venues needed to stage the Winter Olympics have already been built after Almaty hosted the Asian Winter Games in 2011, keeping construction costs to a minimum.
The Almaty mayor Akhmetzhan Yessimov said Kazakhstan, the second-largest former Soviet oil producer after Russia, also wanted the Games to help promote their country and develop businesses beyond the energy sector.
“We need these Games to give our people a better future,” he said.
As expected, Almaty’s presentation also drew heavily on their campaign slogan “keeping it real”, a thinly-veiled poke at Beijing’s lack of snow.
While the proposal from the Chinese capital includes covering their distant mountains with artificial flakes, Almaty drove home the point that their city got blanketed by natural snow every year and all venues were within a 35-km radius.
Beijing, which hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics, is the clear favourite to be awarded the Games but Almaty’s bid team said they were more confident after their presentation.
“I feel so excited. The air, the intensity in the room. We gave it 100 percent. We had done our homework and I think we will have a very good result,” bid vice-chairman Andrey Kryukov told Reuters.
“We showed our advantages, we are created for winter sports.”
Asked about Massimov’s impassioned speech, Kryukov said: “What can I say? He is our superstar, our main asset.” (Editing by John O’Brien)