Today: Last Update:

  • 2022 Olympic Bid Power Index -- Flawed 2022 Winter Olympic Bids Ranked


    (ATR) Either Almaty or Beijing will win the 2022 Winter Olympics, despite the troubles each presents the IOC. The two cities are the only ones remaining from the field that numbered a half dozen at one time. Failure to rally government or public support eliminated all but these two bids from China and Kazakhstan, which were once long shots.

    The collapse of the field of candidates for 2022 helped lead the IOC to adopt Olympic Agenda 2020 reforms that are supposed to result in a more politically palatable bid process. But with the timeline for 2022 well underway after the reforms were adopted, the IOC has no option but to choose between the two cities left standing. While an IOC working group of technical experts last year said that Almaty and Beijing were able to host the Games, unresolved issues remain in each city. They are unlikely to be settled prior to the July 31 vote of the IOC at the session in Kuala Lumpur.

    The Around the Rings Olympic Bid Power Index for 2022 reveals weaknesses as well as strengths presented by each of these contenders. Compiled by ATR staff who have traveled to these cities, the Power Index is the only ranking of its kind. It evaluates the candidates on a range of criteria from ambience to weather. A perfect score totals 100. Almaty and Beijing both have a ways to go to get close to that number.

    Perhaps surprisingly, the city that hosted the 2008 Summer Games is running behind the bid from Kazakhstan. Almaty scores 71, Beijing a 66.

    The Chinese bid suffers from dependence on artificial snow and a lack of passion for winter sport. Almaty brings its mountains to the edge of the city but has little experience with events the size of a Winter Olympics. The Chinese economy has what it takes to support Olympic Games. Kazakhstan’s fortunes are tied to high oil prices.

    ATR Olympic Bid Power Index - April 2015
    Ambience (out of 5)
    Bid Operation

    Last Games (out of 5)
    Public Support
    Venue Plans
    Weather/Snow4  8  3



    The mountains that will host the alpine events if Almaty wins the Winter Olympics (ATR)
    Almaty, a city of 1.3 million, has a cozy feel to it. Hemmed in by the mountains just 20 minutes away, Kazakhstan’s largest city has a warmth that is conveyed both by the people working on the bid and volunteers on the recent IOC inspection. It seems a good fit for a compact Winter Olympics with some apres-ski atmosphere thrown in.

    Beijing, population 21 million, offers little of the charm of the stereotypic Winter Olympics host city. With no mountains to see, smog instead of snow, Beijing won’t be the most picturesque of Winter Olympic hosts. The ski areas planned in the mountains hours north of the city are largely undeveloped. It is an arid region that will provide a dubious first for the Winter Games: 100% dependency on man-made snow.


    The Genting Garden Secret Resort in Zhangjiakou, China (ATR)
    Almaty will need to address the need for more accommodation, a key IOC concern. Almaty says it has a portfolio of more than 4,200 rooms in 11 planned hotels, which could bring the growing tourism industry an Olympic legacy. For athletes, one Olympic Village will serve city and mountain venues.

    Beijing has all the rooms needed across a range of hotels. Mountain venues are less well served and will require development of infrastructure for tourism that meets Western needs as well as those of the Chinese visitor. Three Olympic Villages will be needed for Beijing 2022, one for the venues in the city and the others serving the mountain venues.

    Bid Operation

    Almaty bid vice chairman Andrey Kryukov is a personable and experienced sports executive, supported by vice mayor Zauresh Amanzholova and Kazakhstan NOC secretary general Timur Dossymbetov. Kazakhstan Prime Minister Karim Massimov chairs the bid but did not meet IOC inspectors in February due to political engagements. Almaty will need him to step up his involvement to match the support the Chinese government provides to Beijing.

    Almaty struggles to globalize its message. Despite receiving a media boost while the IOC was in town, it has been publicity-shy in recent weeks. The bid recently misfired by using cycling doping cheat Alexander Vinokourov as an ambassador. He’s since been dropped. The website shows neither any ambassadors or sponsors. Requests for information about Almaty 2022 sponsorships have drawn a blank. Lack of a global PR firm is affecting the bid’s marketing firepower, although US-based Teneo has provided technical and strategic services.

    Beijing mayor Wang Anshun speaks at a press conference during the latest IOC visit to the city (Getty Images)
    Almaty lacks an IOC member from Kazakhstan, which puts it at a severe disadvantage. No city has ever been elected to host a winter or summer Olympics without an IOC member in the country. China has two, including vice president Zaiqing Yu.

    Beijing 2022 has a strong and organized team at work in the same headquarters building used for the 2008 Games. With a bureaucracy experienced from those Olympics, Beijing has had little need to seek international assistance with the technical aspects of the bid.

    Mayor Wang Anshun is the top government official who’s been actively campaigning for the bid.

    PR firm Weber Shandwick has provided communications expertise, but the bid lacks an authoritative voice who speaks English.

    Media were tightly controlled during the IOC Evaluation Commission visit in March, the press quarantined from the commission during the five days. Media requests to visit the site of the Alpine ski events were denied. Internet access remains an issue in China with blocked websites and poor connectivity persistent problems.


    During the IOC Evaluation Commission visit in February, talks with Almaty bid leaders sparked a wave of venue changes, slashing the capital budget by at least $100 million. The original budget was $1.6 billion for competition and non-competition venues. There are full government guarantees backing Almaty 2022.

    There is little question about government backing for Beijing 2022, which will be needed for development of the mountain venues outside the city. The biggest project will be the 160 km high-speed rail connecting Beijing to the mountains. Claiming the project is part of national railway expansion, Beijing bid organizers say there is no need to consider the cost as part of the Olympic Games or to disclose how much it will cost to build.

    Last Games

    Almaty doesn’t have significant experience hosting international sports events, a point noted by the IOC last year. But the city at least has winter sports experience. It co-hosted the 2011 Asian Winter Games and is preparing for 2017 Winter Universiade.

    Beijing has proven big event experience and know-how, including the success of the 2008 Olympics. But the score for the city is near zero for winter sports expertise, outside of some skating competitions.

    Fireworks erupt over the National Stadium during the Beijing 2008 opening ceremony. (Getty Images)

    It’s easy to see that a winter Olympics could make an impact on Almaty, becoming a Central Asia getaway for tourists to enjoy the slopes. Locals flock to the decades-old Medeu speedskating oval at weekends in the foothills of the mountains. The ski jump facility at the heart of the city is being transformed into a sports and entertainment destination.

    For Beijing, legacy of the 2008 Olympics makes the 2022 bid possible. Arenas from 2008 eliminate the need for any construction for the ice events or ceremonies. Whether the transformation of barren hillsides north of Beijing into ski resorts kindles a wave of Chinese interest in winter sport remains to be seen. Poor attendance this winter for a freestyle skiing World Cup stop in Beijing shows there is a long way to go.


    The comparisons on the marketing potential for Almaty and Beijing are striking.

    With a population of 1.3 billion and a gross domestic product of $16 trillion, China has the resources to handle a Winter Games

    For Kazakhstan, population 17 million, the GDP is but a fraction of China’s -- $220 billion, and dependent on strong oil prices.

    Almaty forecasts sponsorship revenue of $700 million and ticket revenues of 105 million, figures the IOC has termed “optimistic”, given the size of the national economy.

    Beijing proposes to raise just over $1 billion, nearly the same amount as Almaty, from national marketing programs. The IOC has termed that figure “feasible” despite the lower spending power of the average Chinese compared to Kazakhstan.

    Public and Government Support

    In a country criticized by human rights organizations over a government crackdown on freedom of speech, there is no organized opposition in Kazakhstan to the Almaty bid. Opinion polls conducted by the bid indicate public support for the bid in the 65% range with 13% opposed.

    Government support seemed a bit shaky in the early days of the bid but now appears solid.

    Premier Xi Jinping has underscored the Winter Olympics as part of the “Chinese Dream”, a vision for the future of the country. In a nation run by one political party, there is little variance from this vision. The Beijing bid exists through the initiative of the government from the capital city and remains fully a project of the state. Public support for Beijing is in the range of 95%.


    The Beijing International Airport (ATR)
    The proximity of all winter sports venues to Almaty reduces the strain on the public transportation network. There is little congestion on the roads and the underground is clean and efficient. Road widening is needed on some routes to venues, a concern of the IOC. With limited air options, reaching Almaty from most parts of the world outside of central Asia remains a challenge.

    Beijing is rich in transport resources, although at the same time it can be maddening to cross town either by car or mass transit. The Beijing International Airport serves worldwide destinations for nonstop flights and would be adequate for the 2022 Games.

    But the IOC says the construction of a high-speed rail line between Beijing and the mountain venues 160 km away is essential to the feasibility of the Olympic plan. Beijing 2022 insists the rail line will be completed as part of the expansion of the national rail system.

    Venue Plans

    The Sunkar ski jump facility, right in the heart of the city, was built for the 2011 Winter Asian Games (ATR)
    Almaty scores strongly on venues, trumpeting an “intimate, affordable” concept and the most efficient Games plan in 30 years. All venues are within a 30 km radius of the Olympic Village. Of 14 competition venues, only three would need to be built. Following the IOC inspection, eight changes were made to the venue plan to make it “even more efficient and affordable”.

    Venues for Beijing are spread between the city and the mountains, where there are two separate clusters. By using existing venues from 2008, Beijing would need to build one new arena, a speedskating oval. Mountain venues will require significant development.

    Weather and Snow Conditions

    Snowfall is not a challenge facing Almaty. The bid says the climate is ideally suited for the Games as it varies on different levels of elevation within city boundaries, ranging from 500m to 1750m in the northern region. In the middle of March, during the proposed Paralympics period, the city awoke to 30cm of fresh snow. Average snow depth in the mountains during the Games period is 65 cm.

    Almaty's proposed ski jump venues, as seen from the 30th floor of the Ritz Carlton hotel. (ATR)
    The mountain venues for Beijing are in an arid zone with an average snow depth of 5 cm at the Alpine venue in Yanqing. At the other mountain venue of Zhangjiakou planned for Nordic events, the average snow depth is 21 cm, but can be as little as 4cm.

    Artificially created snow thus will be required to support Olympic events in the mountains, the first time for a Winter Olympics. The demand for water and the cost of making snow appears to contradict efforts by the IOC under Olympic Agenda 2024 affordable and sustainable Games. Reports are beginning to surface that farmers in the region are facing water restrictions so that water is available for snowmaking. If true, Beijing could face a significant public relations challenge.

    Air pollution is a problem facing both Almaty and Beijing due to vehicle exhausts and industrial sources. Both cities say the Olympics would be a driving force to help clear the air.

    Written and reported by Mark Bisson, Brian Pinelli, Bob Mackin and Ed Hula