PM Massimov and the Almaty bid team before their final pitch to the IOC (ATR)
(ATR) The Kazakh team was in offensive mode in their impressive presentation, underlining the bid’s good fit with Agenda 2020 and exposing the weak points of Beijing 2022.
Prime Minister Karim Massimov and two other speakers used the platform at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre to emphasise the fundamental differences between the two bids.
Massimov was the star, wrapping up the 45-minute appeal to 85 IOC members with a speech, in English, littered with reasons why the IOC should choose Almaty over the favorite Beijing.
Referencing the promises made by previous speakers, foreign affairs minister Erlan Idrissov and bid vice-chairman Andrey Kryukov, about Almaty’s compact venues plan, proximity of the mountains and natural snow, Massimov powerfully conveyed the message that Almaty was not a risky choice and called on the IOC to be “brave” in their decision.
“One mitigates [risk] with facts not fabrication. The bottom line is that everything we said today is true,” he said, adding there was “no fabrication” about compact venues and travel plans, “no overstatement about government support or the country’s ability to host winter sports events.
“No enhancement of our beautiful mountains or real snow,” Massimov said, a pop at Beijing a bid largely based on artificial snow.
Almaty: "Golden Opportunity" for IOC
Massimov said he had heard the sentiment that if the IOC chose Beijing it could sleep well at night for the next seven years. “When have you ever slept. When have you ever rested on your past accomplishments,” he challenged IOC members. “When have you ever not been brave through your work," he said, citing the example of the IOC selecting Moscow to stage the 1980 Olympics at the height of the Cold War.
“Today we ask you to have faith in us, Kazakhstan. It is not based on blind faith but on the facts you need to make a historic decision.”
Stepping up the tempo, Massimov then drove home the message by promoting Almaty 2022 as a “golden opportunity” for the IOC on many fronts – to prove that smaller, advancing nations can successfully host the winter Games; to give athletes the winter sports experience they deserve; to show long-term Olympic legacy.
Crucially, he said the words that will have been music to IOC president Thomas Bach’s ears: “Almaty 2022 is a golden opportunity for you and for us because by ‘Keeping it Real’ [bid slogan] we are helping you keep Agenda 2020 real.”
The foreign affairs minister also impressed, painting a vivid picture for the voters, which was backed up by several videos. He spoke about Almaty’s “powder snow-filled mountains, charming neighborhoods, beautiful parks” and the city’s “warmth and hospitality”.
Speaking in English, he emphasized the bid’s “sensible plan”, going on to list eight reasons
Bach greets the Kazakhstan PM before Almaty's passionate bid presentation (ATR)
why the IOC should vote for Kazakhstan’s second bid for a Winter Games. Pointing to the maximum travel time of 45 minutes for athletes and a concept billed as the most compact for 30 years, he said 80 percent of venues would be built by the time of Games. Only two new venues are needed.
“When was the last time you heard that from a Winter Games bidder,” he said, taking a pop at Beijing in stating that it was “not some artificially contrived plan for convenience”, seemingly a reference to the Chinese city's sprawling spread of venues.
He said Almaty’s bid offered “zero financial risk”, with a reasonable $4.5 billion non-OCOG budget backed by the country’s $75 billion sovereign wealth fund. In another snipe at Beijing, he said “The country doesn’t have to be a superpower or spend tens of billions of dollars to host Winter Games."
Bid chief Kryukov said the bid was “ideally suited” to fit with Agenda 2020, offering
Bid vice chairman Kryukov (ATR)
a “real and lasting Olympic legacy”. He insisted Almaty offered a return to the traditions of a cosy winter sports town with real winter weather, “like a winter games used to be… centered on the needs of athletes and sport not on the needs of a country’s image”.
Also taking a shot at Beijing, he said “No bus or train” was needed to reach faraway mountains. “No one will endure many hours” travelling between venues.
Addressing accommodations concerns, he spent a minute or two saying guarantees were in place to provide the 24,000 rooms required.
One of the videos gave a quick snapshot of Almaty’s “breathtaking natural landscapes” with “skyscrapers framed by snowy peaks”, promising “a winter wonderland to make your dreams come true… real snow, real winter ambience, real Winter Games. Another got locals to explain what the slogan ‘Keeping it real’ meant for them.
There was nothing forced in Almaty’s passionate and pitch-perfect presentation, which also included some remarks in French.
Mayor of Almaty Akhmetzhan Yessimov and others on the bid team looked and sounded relaxed, and their attempts at humor worked. The one-liners that peppered the presentation generated ripples of laughter rather than falling flat.
Yessimov stressed the strong public support for a Winter Olympics, While the charismatic and always-cheerful Denis Ten, a Sochi 2014 figure skating medalist, made his mark with an emotional appeal from the heart that ended: “I am here for the thousands of young Kazakh athletes dreaming their own Olympic dreams.”
There was only one question from IOC members to Almaty - with Prince Albert of Monaco seeking clarification on new venues.
Reported by Mark Bisson
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