(ATR) Karim Massimov says the 2022 Winter Olympics will help drive development of his country.
“Twenty five years ago we were part of the Soviet Union and we had a completely different image, a completely different situation within the country, Massimov told a small group of reporters during an interview in Kuala Lumpur. He will lead the delegation from Almaty taking part in the final presentation to the IOC session July 31. Beijing is the only other city in the race and is considered a favorite. The bid for 2022 from Almaty is the second try for the Winter Olympics. A bid for 2014 failed to make the IOC shortlist in the race eventually won by Sochi.
“I am quite confident that Kazakhstan is in a different stage of development,” he says about this new effort to land the Olympics.
“And I strongly believe that my government and my country is much better prepared for the bid this time. I think our facilities in Almaty are much better prepared,” he says.
Massimov is an economist by training who has held portfolios in transport, economics and a previous five-year stint as Prime Minister. He began his current term a year ago.
“We want to be part of the developed world. We have a national strategy, Kazakhstan 2050. We want to be by 2050 within the 30 most developed nations in the world. That’s why the Olympic Games are part of our strategy,” he explains.
The Kazakhstan prime minister is in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to support the bid of Almaty for 2022. He may be the highest ranking national government leader appearing in Kuala Lumpur on behalf of a bid. Beijing has yet to confirm its official delegation which will make the final presentation to the IOC Session July 31.
Massimov declined to make any comparisons between Almaty and Beijing. But when asked about snow, a challenge for Beijing which will rely entirely on artificially made snow in the mountains north of the city, Massimov spoke confidently about what Almaty has to offer.
“We have a lot of challenges in Kazakhstan. But snow is our advantage. We always have snow,” he said.
Massimov says Almaty
is a good fit for the IOC and the reforms of Olympic Agenda 2020, which aim to reduce the costs and complexity of staging the Games.
“I personally like the new initiative about Olympic [Agenda] 2020. Olympic Games shouldn’t be that expensive, and not only superpowers can do it. We can do it with a less budget,” he says.
Massimov with reporters in Kuala Lumpur. (Almaty 2022)
Massimov says finance will not be an issue for Kazakhstan, despite lower oil prices. Petroleum is a major economic driver in the country. He says an $80 billion sovereign wealth fund has been created that will help fund Olympic construction and operational costs of about $12 billion.
Massimov says the questions he’s received from IOC members most often deal with finance and experience of Kazakhstan in staging big events. They are questions that have been posed in the past about his young nation.
“It was the same question we got 25 years ago. Do you have enough experience to run your country? Do you have money?”.
Massimov says despite criticism about human rights issues that have been lodged about Kazakhstan as well as China, he says his country will move forward on this front as a result of hosting the Winter Olympics.
“I strongly believe that the effect of Almaty 2022 and the impact of the Olympic Games will influence the human rights situation in the country. And I will do whatever it takes to make it happen,” he pledged.
“We are a young nation. For us to have something like this is a big challenge, a big opportunity, hope for a younger generation. In the international arena we can place Kazakhstan on the map. And we can place Almaty on the international sports map in the future,” he said.
“We can prove to ourselves and to the rest of the world that we can make things happen. That Kazakhstan can compete and win a big event such as the Olympic Games in 2022.”
Written and reported in Kuala Lumpur by Ed Hula
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