BANGKOK - The Kazakhstan city of Almaty presented itself Friday as the compact and affordable alternative to favourite Beijing in the bidding for the 2022 Winter Olympics. The Chinese capital proposed dates that could conflict with the Super Bowl.
As the only two contenders remaining in a race depleted by withdrawals, both cities made presentations to the general assembly of the Association of National OIympic Committees — the first international promotional pitches by the bid finalists.
Almaty bid committee board member Ilya Urazakov said the main Olympic Park would be 10 kilometres (6 miles) from the city centre, and that all venues would be within a 35-kilometre (22-mile) radius.
"We are proposing the most compact winter games in the last 30 years," Urazakov said.
The compact bid was a contrast to Beijing, which would host Nordic events in Zhangjiakou, 160 kilometres (100 miles) to the north. China says a high-speed railway will link the cities in 50 minutes.
Beijing is a strong favourite and has already established its organizing efforts and a marketing and media campaign, while Almaty has had a lower profile. The Kazakhstan city of 1.5 million received lower scores in a technical evaluation report earlier this year from the International Olympic Committee.
Urazakov said eight of the 13 proposed venues were existing facilities, three more would be built by 2016 regardless of the outcome of the Olympic bid, and two more would be built if the bid was successful — a 12,000-seat stadium for skating events, and a 3,000-seat facility for curling.
The bid includes a 10-hectare (25-acre) Olympic village, and a 5,500-bed athlete village.
Beijing, which hosted the 2008 Summer Olympics, is aiming to become the first city to hold both the summer and winter games.
"The games will be reliable, secure, and risk-free," Beijing Mayor Wang Anshun said.
Wang said Beijing's games would be held Feb. 4-20, while Almaty did not specify dates. Beijing's proposed dates could conflict with the Super Bowl, the NFL championship game which usually is held in the first week of February.
This year's Super Bowl 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. 1-7. The dates for the 2022 Super Bowl have not yet been decided.
Beijing's proposed start date would be the earliest since the 1976 Innsbruck Games opened on Feb. 4.
The 2022 host city will be selected next year at the IOC assembly in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on July 31.
A year ago, Beijing was a long shot to land the 2022 Games, particularly with other Asian countries already lined up to host the next two Olympics: the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo.
But then public opposition and financial concerns in Europe began whittling the field of candidates one by one. St. Moritz/Davos and Munich dropped proposed bids after they were rejected in referendums in Switzerland and Germany. Stockholm; Krakow, Poland; Lviv, Ukraine; and Oslo, Norway, all dropped out of the race.
China was widely reported to have spent more than $40 billion overall on the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
In Friday's presentation, Beijing officials repeatedly stressed they would put on "sustainable" and "economical" games.
The Beijing bid said the games would include existing infrastructure from 2008 and declared the Olympics would leave a "powerful legacy" by developing a winter sports market for China and east Asia.
"Beijing 2022 will be able to minimize costs in areas ranging from venue construction to games operations," Wang said. "Standards for venues and operations will be carefully formulated and associated budgets controlled."