LONDON - The Kazakh city of Almaty came out battling Tuesday in its contest with rival favourite Beijing in the bidding for the 2022 Winter Games, portraying itself as the compact, affordable choice with "real winter weather" and "lots of natural snow."
Delegations from Almaty and Beijing submitted their bid documents Tuesday to the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, Switzerland, a day before the deadline.
The bid books include details of each city's plans for the games, including venues, accommodation, financing, transportation and security.
The race began with six candidates but was reduced to just two following the withdrawals of Stockholm; Krakow, Poland; Lviv, Ukraine; and Oslo.
An IOC evaluation commission will visit the two finalists in February and March. The host city will be selected by the full IOC on July 31 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
"Today is an important day for the Olympic Winter Games in 2022 because we will now have the opportunity to see the vision of the two candidate cities," IOC President Thomas Bach said.
The IOC said both cities are being encouraged to reflect the "Olympic Agenda 2020" reform package adopted last month, including measures to reduce the costs of the games and avoid white elephants.
Beijing, which hosted the 2008 Olympics, is aiming to become the first city to stage both the summer and winter games. With the field down to two Asian candidates, it became a strong favourite because of China's power within the Olympic movement, political will and high-profile marketing and promotional campaigns.
"Our candidature file embodies the requirements of the IOC and the philosophy of Olympic Agenda 2020." Beijing Mayor Wang Anshun said Tuesday. "The important concept of running athlete-centred, economical and sustainable games will be represented well in our bid and actual organization of the games in 2022."
Almaty, the commercial capital of the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan in Central Asia, bid for the 2014 Olympics but failed to make the list of finalists. Kazakhstan hosted the 2011 Asian Games and will stage the Winter University Games in 2017.
Almaty had kept virtually silent in recent weeks and months as Beijing pumped up its bid. But Almaty re-emerged Tuesday with a lengthy statement that sought to set itself apart from Beijing as being compact and featuring true winter conditions — and plenty of snow.
Almaty offers the "most easy to use and efficient games plan in 30 years," with all venues within a 30-kilometre (18-mile) radius of the Olympic Village, it said.
The statement said Almaty's project was a "perfect fit" with the IOC's cost-cutting plans.
"Almaty 2022 promises a return to a responsible, sensible games model by adapting the 2022 Winter Games to fit the city and its long-term needs, not altering the city with unnecessary infrastructure to fit the games," it said.
The games will not burden the public "with unwanted debt and unwarranted facilities" and will focus on "minimal use of new venues and unnecessary infrastructure," the statement said.
Almaty took a clear jab at Beijing's perceived weaknesses — lack of winter sports tradition, winter atmosphere and snow.
Almaty Mayor Akhmetzhan Yesimov said the Kazakh city is "graced with real, pristine mountains and real, ideal, winter weather."
"It is a city perfectly suited to host an intimate, accessible Winter Games with lots of natural snow!" Yesimov said.
Beijing would host indoor events, such as figure skating, within the capital city and use some of the venues from the 2008 Games.
One of the major challenges is having enough snow in the mountains northwest of Beijing, where Alpine skiing events would be held, and the mountains near the city of Zhangjiakou, the proposed site for Nordic skiing about 180 kilometres (112 miles) north of the capital.
The IOC evaluation commission, headed by Russian member Alexander Zhukov, will visit Almaty from Feb. 14-18 and Beijing from March 24-28. The panel will produce a written report ahead of an IOC technical briefing with the bid cities in Lausanne on June 9-10.
The cities are allowed to release their bid documents publicly starting Wednesday.
Follow Stephen Wilson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/stevewilsonap