Olympics: Beijing, Almaty hand over rival 2022 Winter Games bids

LAUSANNE (AFP) - Leaders of the rival Beijing and Almaty bids to stage the 2022 Winter Olympics on Tuesday made official guarantees to the IOC as their battle entered the final straight.

The event is guaranteed to be staged in Asia as the Chinese and Kazakhstan cities are the only candidates. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will make a final decision in July.

Beijing is considered the favourite because of China's political sway on the IOC and the Kazakh government's late backing for Almaty's bid.

But both have seized upon recent reforms passed by the IOC, the so-called Agenda 2020 of IOC president Thomas Bach, to make the Olympics easier and cheaper to put on to bolster their cases.

The IOC now wants Olympic hosts to use more existing facilities and share events with other cities if necessary.

In the first bids made since Agenda 2020 was passed in December, the two cities provided documents setting out the facilities to be used and built, the costs and guarantees from the city authorities and governments.

China would stage some of the skiing events up to 220km from Beijing, making it one of the most spread-out Winter Olympics.

But Liu Peng, chairman of the Chinese Olympic Committee, said: "We will follow the requirements of the Agenda 2020. We will do an even better job following the agenda."

Zauresh Amanzhilova, vice-mayor of Almaty, and Timur Dossymbetov secretary-general of the Kazakhstan Olympic Committee, handed over their country's bid which they stressed is based on existing facilities all within 30km of the Olympic village.

"Our plan is affordable, easy to use and 'plug and play' with our existing sports facilities," said Dossymbetov.

Many of the officials who organised the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing have been drafted into the team fighting for the Winter Games.

Almaty has been seen from suffering from a lack of strong support from its strongman President Nursultan Nazarbayev. But the government now appears behind the project.

Almaty was also a candidate for the 2014 Winter Olympics, which went to Russia's Sochi. It staged the 2011 Asian Winter Games and has been chosen for the 2017 University Winter Games.

The European cities of Oslo, Stockholm, Krakow in Poland and Lviv in Ukraine all backed out of the contest because of public fears over the cost.

An IOC evaluation committee will go to Almaty on Feb 14-18 and to Beijing from March 24-28.

The two cities will make presentations to the IOC in Lausanne in June and the IOC executive committee will decide the winner at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur on July 31.