LONDON – The race for the 2022 Winter Olympics is down two Asian cities that are not constricted by the same financial, political and public opinion concerns that led several European contenders to drop out last year.
The Kazakh city of Almaty and the Chinese capital of Beijing submitted their detailed bid files to the International Olympic Committee last week. Both pledge cost-conscious and sustainable games in line with the "Olympic Agenda 2020" reforms approved by the IOC in December.
The IOC will select the host city on July 31 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The Associated Press looks at some of the key points and comparisons in the bid books:
Almaty: "With its three-fold advantages of compactness, ultramodern venues and ideal conditions, the Almaty 2022 concept is a first of its kind in the recent Olympic winter era."
Beijing: "We are committed to delivering an edition of athletes-centered, sustainable and economical Olympic Winter Games and harmonizing the Olympic Movement with our city development."
Almaty and Beijing both propose holding the Olympics from Feb. 4-20, 2022 — presenting a possible clash with two other major sporting events.
The proposed start date is the earliest since the 1976 Innsbruck Games, which opened on Feb. 4.
The Super Bowl is usually played in the first week of February. This year's NFL championship game will be played on Feb. 1, with the next two on Feb. 7 and Feb. 5. The past 11 Super Bowls have all been played on dates between Feb. 1-17. The date for the 2022 Super Bowl has not yet been decided.
The Olympic dates could also potentially run into a conflict with the 2022 World Cup. FIFA plans to move the '22 tournament out of the traditional July period because of the brutal heat in host Qatar. January-February is one of the possible alternatives. The IOC says FIFA President Sepp Blatter has given assurances the events won't clash, but the issue has still not been put to rest.
COUNTING THE COSTS
Holding down costs is considered essential following the reported $51 billion price tag associated with the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi. IOC President Thomas Bach's reforms are aimed in part at cutting spending on bidding and hosting.
Almaty says it has already reduced its bid budget from $34.5 million to $23 million.
The bid books list projected figures for two budgets: the organizing committee's operating costs for running the games, and construction and infrastructure costs.
Almaty: organizing committee budget of $1.859 billion, based on 2014 dollars. $2.195 billion, based on 2022 figures.
Beijing: $1.558 billion (2014) and $1.98 billion (2022).
Almaty: infrastructure budget of $1.636 billion (2014); no figure based on 2022 prices.
Beijing: $1.51 billion (2014), $1.92 billion (2022).
NOTE: The budget numbers are not etched in stone. The figures usually multiply after the games have been awarded. Cost-overruns and soaring budgets are common.
The IOC is urging cities to make maximum use of existing and temporary venues.
Almaty: 14 competition venues — eight already exist, three being built irrespective of the games, and three new venues planned.
Beijing: 12 competition venues — six existing, six new.
Almaty: claims to have the most compact bid in three decades, with all venues within a 30-kilometer (18-mile) radius of the Olympic Village. Events would be held in the city and surrounding mountain clusters of Medeo, Ak Bulak, Sunkar and Tabagan.
Beijing: would hold ice events in the city, using some venues from 2008 Summer Olympics. Snow sports would take place in Yanqing and the city of Zhangjiakou, 160 kilometers (100 miles) to the north. China says a high-speed train will connect Beijing and Zhangjiakou in 50 minutes.
Don't expect any public referendums on the games to be held in China or Kazakhstan.
Almaty: 79 percent in favor, 10 percent opposed.
Beijing: 94.8 percent in favor in China, 91.8 percent in Beijing, 99.5 percent in Zhangjiakou.
OPENING AND CLOSING CEREMONIES
Almaty: Central Stadium, to be upgraded and increased to 35,000 capacity.
Beijing: National Stadium (Bird's Nest), 91,000 capacity.
Almaty: 2.1 million tickets with projected revenue of $206 million.
Beijing: 2.05 million tickets, $110 million.
Almaty: 25,000 guaranteed hotel rooms.
DID YOU KNOW?
Almaty: Kazakhstan will completely renovate and install a roof on the famed Medeo speedskating oval, which is at 1,720 meters (5,600 feet) above sea level and produced more than 120 world records during the Soviet era.
Beijing: China has created a special $30 million program to develop coaches and athletes in sports with little tradition in the country, such as Nordic combined, bobsled and luge.
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