KUALA LUMPUR – On the eve of the 128th Session of the International Olympic Committee in Kuala Lumpur, Prime Minister of Kazakhstan and Chairman of the Almaty 2022 Bid Committee Karim Massimov told international news agencies and business publications that Almaty is ready for the challenge of hosting the Winter Olympics in 2022.
Speaking during a meeting with representatives of the Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France Press, Around The Rings, Inside The Games as well as withPresident of the International Sports Press Association (AIPS) Gianni Merlo, Massimov noted that Almaty is a real winter sports town, surrounded by mountains 4,000 metres tall and covered with snow. Furthermore,Almaty has 70 percent of the facilities necessary for the Olympics in a compact area ready, and offers an economical and sustainable vision compatible with the so called Agenda 2020, adopted recently by the International Olympic Committee.
According to the prime minister’s press service, media representatives were also interested in the development of city infrastructure, modernisation and the expansion of highways. Concerning this, Massimov noted that the Winter Olympics in Almaty would be a catalyst for infrastructure projects that have already been planned irrespective of the Games.
According to the prime minister, the concept of Almaty 2022 is the most compact, with all facilities within a radius of 30 km from the Olympic Village with an average travel time of 30-45 minutes. They are located around the Olympic Village in six different directions, forming a “star,” which will divide traffic flows to avoid congestion.
In addition, during the meeting there were discussions relating to the financing of the Games, improving the environment and others. The IOC emphasised some financial risk in its evaluation report on Almaty last month, noting the Central Asian nation’s dependence on oil with prices low nowadays. Therefore, media representatives asked questions concerning the financial risks of the country. “We are keeping income from the oil out of the (state) budget,” said Massimov. “In the next four to five years, Kazakhstan will come out stronger of an era of low prices for commodities.”
The prime minister also placed great emphasis on the fact that “twenty-five years ago we used to be part of the Soviet Union. Now our direction is the World Trade Organisation, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Olympics. We want to change the image of Kazakhstan.”
Since 2010, more than $1 billion has been invested in new sports infrastructure (ski jumps, the arena for ski races and biathlon, curling hall, a centre for snowboarding and freestyle, a main hockey arena).
Massimov told media representatives that the National Fund, based on the Norwegian model, with revenues from natural resources, now stood at $70 billion, some of which would be used for the Olympics if Almaty wins the vote of the IOC on July 31.
“I am quite confident that Kazakhstan is at a different stage. Our economy is better prepared for future development. We are better prepared than before,” said Massimov.
However, the hosting of the Winter Olympic Games in Almaty is not going to be expensive, according to the press release from the prime minister’s press servie. There are some key factors that prove this statement. Firstly, heavy snowfall reduces water and energy consumption for the production of artificial snow. Secondly, 70 percent of venues already exist with more being built for use at the Winter Universiade in two years. Thirdly, the city administration cooperates closely with NGOs and entrepreneurs who are ready to construct new hotels for guests. However, the primary factor that will keep costs low is the city’s ability to offer real snow.
The Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre is bustling with activities these days as both Almaty and Beijing bid committees prepare for the their final push before the vote on July 31.
Numerous Kazakh and Chinese world and Olympic champions as well as government officials are also in town to offer support and encouragement for their respective bid committees.