Reporting from Almaty, Kazakhstan – The unseasonably warm weather continued to dominate the small talk in Almaty as the IOC Evaluation Commission and its Chief Alexander Zhukov continued to tour venues, and the serious conversations resumed behind closed doors at the Ritz Carlton hotel.
The Commission had lunch at the final official venue of their tour, the Shymbulak Ski Resort. It is proposed site for Alpine skiing including speed and slalom events. Accessible from the main highway by a 15 minute gondola ride or directly from the road about 45 minutes from the city, the site can accommodate 3000 spectators.
The resort claims that they receive 300 sunny days each year, and the IOC team certainly enjoyed one Monday with the mild temperatures and plenty of snow on the ground.
$100 million will be required to get the resort Games ready, but the venue is already fully operational with modern amenities for elite and recreational skiers.
The IOC team also visited the nearby Madeu speed skating oval which is also an iconic recreational skating complex enjoyed by many families only 20 minutes from the city. The open air arena enjoys breathtaking vistas nestled in a deep valley and is famous for being the highest skating rink in the world at 1700m. The venue, with Soviet style architecture was first opened in 1951 and immediately inspired elite skaters to set over 200 world records due to the oval’s high elevation.
Aigerim Berlibayeva, Chief Administrative Officer of the Medeo Alpine Sports Complex described the oval as “the pearl, the crown jewel of our country.”
In order to adhere to skating federation standards and to make the venue Games-ready, a roof will be added to the stadium along with seating upgrades at a cost of $61 million. To protect the legacy of the open air experience, an additional rink has been planned alongside the structure post-Games.
But according to Almaty 2022 Vice Chairman Andrey Kryukov, these plans are still flexible.
When asked by GamesBids.com, he said “we have a few solutions and we presented all solutions to the IOC, roofed, unroofed, and a different one.”
“For Almaty citizens it’s very important to keep Medeu as is, to keep Medeu as a landmark.
“This is a place that’s 50 years old, it’s a special spirit.”
He said that his team will wait until after the evaluation to understand the IOC’s position on the issue before making any decisions.
An additional athlete’s village along with IOC family accommodations will be constructed nearby.
The evaluation team were shown a model of the proposed Olympic city, an entirely new cluster to be built should the Games be awarded to Kazakhstan. The cluster includes a light rail connection and the Olympic Village to house 5000, a transport mall, arenas for figure skating and short track speed skating, the Olympic Family hotel, the Main Broadcast Centre (MBC) and International Broadcast Centre (IBC), and the Media Village. The IBC will include a temporary section which will be removed to leave a scaled back convention centre in legacy mode.
The IOC Evaluation team made a rare appearance at a photo opportunity for the media at Madeu, the first time since the visit began Saturday. While reporters were not permitted to speak to the commission members, British IOC Member Adam Pengilly briefly commented to some international journalists about the many venues he had the opportunity to see.
“It’s a nice place … it’s a beautiful venue,” he said.
The IOC provided Almaty 2022 with the results of their independent polling of Almaty citizens that revealed 65% are in favour hosting the Games, that an increase of 4 point over figures provided by the bid team last year.
“The number keeps growing,” Kryukov boasted but explained that people still don’t know enough about the bid and further community dialogue is required.
The teams will continue to meet behind closed doors Tuesday to further discuss the themes included in the bid book, and in the evening they will attend a gala in honour of the IOC Evaluation Team.