Kazakhstan Closing In on 2022 Winter Olympics by Default
Kazakhstan's chances of hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics took a turn for the better this week as Norway announced it was withdrawing Oslo's bid, leaving only Almaty and Beijing interested in hosting the expensive extravaganza.
Norway pulled out of the race on October 1 citing a lack of public support for the costly venture. This year's Sochi Winter Olympics, in Russia, came in way over budget at $51 billion. The fear of ballooning costs has seen the number of contenders to host the 2022 Games dwindle from six to just two.
With Kazakhstan's economy under pressure from the downturn in close partner Russia, the country’s Olympic Committee will need to carefully watch its budget. So far, Kazakh officials are confident they can keep costs for the Almaty bid down as the city already has much infrastructure required for the Games. It has facilities built for the 2011 Asian Winter Games and is currently splashing out $1 billion on amenities for the 2017 Winter Universiade, which brings together student athletes from around the world.
Kazakh officials see the hosting of high-profile events like the Winter Olympics as great PR. “As government officials we are working hard to attract investments and being in a country recognized all over the world is very good for attracting investments,” Kairat Kelimbetov, chairman of Kazakhstan's National Bank, told TengriNews in August.
This weekend Almaty is showing off its sporting credentials as it hosts Tour Almaty, an international cycling event that sees the Astana Pro Team leader and 2014 Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali lead his teammates in a 186-kilometer road race around Kazakhstan's former capital.
After the team’s victory in Paris this July, Kelimbetov, who is also head of Kazakhstan's Cycling Federation, made an ambitious call for Kazakhstan to host the start of a future Tour de France, pointing to this year's successful opening stages held in England.
But Kazakhstan, the largest country in Central Asia, is a few miles further from France than England is.
Paul Bartlett is a journalist based in Almaty.