Reporting from Almaty, Kazakhstan – The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Evaluation Commission concluded its five-day visit to examine Almaty’s 2022 Olympic bid Wednesday on a positive note for the Kazakhstan.
Chief of the Evaluation team, Alexander Zhukov told reporters at the Almaty Ritz Carlton Hotel that “our visit has confirmed that Almaty is capable of holding successful Games in 2022,”
“It has been a very productive and informative visit.
“The Almaty 2022 bid committee was well prepared and provided excellent presentations, explanations and clarifications. It was exactly the kind of open, honest dialogue envisioned by Agenda 2020.
“Almaty has spectacular mountains, some very impressive venues, and a real passion for winter sport.”
Zhukov raved about what has been considered one of the most iconic venues of the Olympic Games plan, the ski jump at Sunkar.
“It’s a very beautiful place on the border of Almaty that we can see from our hotel,” he said.
“What has impressed me personally is that there is five different jumps, not for just the competition but for the children – 20, 40, 60 metres, 95 and 135 – so I think its one of the best venues in the world and it’s completely ready for the Olympic Games.”
Almaty 2022 Bid Chief called the visit “historical” explaining that this was the first evaluation by the IOC to Kazakhstan, and the first ever visit under the Agenda 2020 process – one that he believes had a significant positive impact on the evaluation. He believes it made the already excellent Almaty bid and even better one.
Agenda 2020 and Bid Changes
This is the first evaluation process since Agenda 2020 was unanimously passed in Monaco last December, and changes were evident, including some key logistics of the evaluation event.
For the first time the IOC will pay for the meeting costs, travel costs, accommodation and meals. And to further reduce bid committee costs the IOC will supply the equipment for the meeting room layouts and review boards – and will use the identical configuration when the team visits Beijing next March
Zhukov revealed that the Almaty 2022 bid committee suggested amending plans and moving the speed ski events planned for Shymbulak to Tau Park instead, combining them with Slalom events. This would remove an entire venue from the concept which will effectively eliminate $100 million from the budget estimated for the improvements and overlays needed to make this venue Games-ready.
Shymbulak, a ski resort that played a key role in the recent Asian Winter Games, would no longer be required for the Games.
Dynamically changing plans and concepts working-session style at an Evaluation Commission visit is unprecedented and reflects the changes inspired by Agenda 2020. Where previously theme review meetings were like examinations, now the same reviews have become a constructive, collaborative effort.
Along with the ski venue changes, associated infrastructure changes will be made including a reduction in the Medeu Olympic Village, the removal of the mountain press centre, the removal of the mountain medals plaza and some transportation modifications.
“The impact of Agenda 2020 on this week’s meetings was beyond our expectation,” Kryukov said.
“The Agenda 2020 works, and it works quite well.”
Concerns were raised earlier this week when Kazakhstan Prime Minister Karim Massimov, who is also bid chief, was unable to leave capital Astana to travel to Almaty due to domestic political issues. He was due to present to the Evaluation Commission members.
Zhukov put these fears to rest by confirming that the IOC has recognized strong government support.
“First of all we are very satisfied with the level of government support of Kazakhstan,” he said.
We have all of the required guarantees from the government and during the Evaluation Commission we have met with several government officials and have been impressed with their enthusiasm and commitment to the bid of Almaty 2022.
“We have also met with the Mayor of Almaty, and the senior officials of city government and we have full confidence of their support of the bid.
Almaty 2022 Bid Chief Andrey Kryukov also reflected “we have a very strong team and the leadership of our country, of the government, gives us the power to finish this bid campaign in good mood.”
Kryukov also shrugged off fears that recent economic woes due to dropping oil prices may impact funding for the Games by explaining the prices have stabilized and the government has been effectively intervening.
Almaty has been boasting that their plans represent the most compact Games in 30 years with most venues either built or already under construction. The plan meets the Agenda 2020 standards for efficiency and legacy without the need to spread the venues around – something the IOC had been willing to accept as a consequence to cost savings. Last year the IOC suggested that PyeongChang move their bobsled event to Japan to avoid the expense of building a new one for their 2018 Games.
From the Evaluation Commission’s luxury lounge vantage point on the 30th floor of the Almaty Ritz Carlton Hotel, a proposed IOC hotel, the Ski Jump venue is so close that live events can be watched and enjoyed – and 7 other venues are visible from the same window.
On Tuesday evening the IOC Evaluation Team were hosted at a gala event held at the historic Abay Opera House named after Kazakh poet, composer, and philosopher Abay Qunanbayuli. A 45-minute presentation attended by close to 500 people including local students featured ballet, opera singers, a choir, and the national instrument orchestra. The Evaluation team, Almaty’s Mayor and around 50 bid committee members later enjoyed dinner at the same venue.
The Evaluation leaves Almaty in a comfortable position ahead of Beijing’s March 24 visit. They’ll complete revised documentation and then prepare for their next presentation in Lausanne in June.
“We believe that we’ve done a great job finding a way to get to the finish line,” Kryukov said.
“This is the highest evaluation for us.”
The Evaluation Commission team is set to depart Almaty, then the group will gather to review 100’s of questions and answers resulting from 6 hours of Q&A. The Almaty 2022 bid committee has until March 4 to update the documentation and propose alternatives as discussed in the meetings after which the IOC will prepare a written evaluation to be shared among the full IOC membership prior to a June technical session. The report will be released to the public June 1.
The IOC will elect either Almaty, or rival Beijing, at an all members session in Kuala Lumpur July 31.