Despite Poor Technical Evaluation, Many Roads Lead to Almaty in 2022

Reporters surround Oslo 2022 bid Chief Eli Grimsby after Shortlist Announced (GB Photo)

From IOC Executive Board Meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland – Almaty’s bid for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games earned a spot on the shortlist Monday – all three eligible bids made it through.

Eight years ago when Almaty was bidding for the 2014 Games there were seven total bids and Almaty’s scores placed it fourth; only three cities moved on. It was close, but the IOC report said the bid “straddled the benchmark” and the Executive Board chose to move forward without the Kazakh city.

When pressed on the issue, then IOC President Jacques Rogges told reporters “we have considered that the three cities have all the qualities to organize the Olympic Games, the other cities are not yet at this level.” Almaty just didn’t measure up.

Back to the 2022 bid and Almaty scores aren’t that much better than those for 2014; and using IOC math there is even a lower level of certainty in the calculated results.

So why did Almaty make the list this time?

Simply put, this year’s field is few in numbers and fewer in quality. The IOC needs all of the cities it can get.

Backing into the shortlist is a very big deal for Kazakhstan – one that might position the city as an unlikely frontrunner. Despite the numbers and the history, the Games could end up in Almaty.

Oslo scored best technically, the only problem is nobody in Norway is interested in winning the bid – or more precisely, only 36% support it. The bid could be dumped in November if support doesn’t improve and one of the coalition government parties votes against it in Parliament.

A trip to Beijing in 2022 would mean a third consecutive Olympic Games in East Asia, and a third Olympics in China (including Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games) and second in Beijing in 14 years. Not a likely scenario – and that’s before you consider the extreme distances between venues in Beijing’s overall plan.

But Almaty is different.

“We’re a town in the mountains, this is the most advantage, from all other towns. Our concept is only 35 km radius of the Games [venues],” Andrey Kryukov, Executive Board Member of the Kazakh NOC said after the shortlist announcement.

“In 2017 we will host test events five years before the Games. That means it is the best guarantee that we will keep our promises.”

90% of Almaty’s venues will be built in time for the University Games in 2017 that host a similar number of athletes as the Olympic Games.

Timur Dossymbetov, Secretary General of NOC of Kazakhstan said “we are ready to organize the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, and we have the support from our people – very important because if people support the bid it will be a big step for the future.”

That’s a strike at Oslo who understand that their main challenge is to rally support at home among a population with the perception that the Olympics just cost too much.

Norwegian ski champion Bjørn Dæhlie said “they thought all this money went into a big sack in Lausanne and these guys were driving around in these black cars spending this money.”

This may be too much of a challenge for the Oslo bid team to overcome.

“We try to develop our advantages and try to reduce our disadvantages or other weaknesses,” Kryukov said of Almaty’s bid.

That may be the winning formula in this unusual race.