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IOC report flags up concerns over 2022 Olympic bid cities

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has released the report by its Evaluation Commission into the bid cities for the 2022 winter Olympic Games, with Almaty and Beijing’s main concerns flagged up as being financial issues and the provision of suitable snow levels, respectively.

The report issued today (Monday) is the first since the unanimous approval of Olympic Agenda 2020, the strategic roadmap for the future of the Olympic Movement, in December last year. Almaty’s vision for the Games mentioned in the report is rooted in the desire to accelerate economic and social reforms; build on the country’s winter sports heritage; and showcase the positive aspects of Almaty and Kazakhstan as a whole. The vision is aligned with the Kazakhstan 2050 strategy. Almaty’s concept seeks to deliver a legacy in three areas: sports and physical activity; venues and infrastructure; and economic growth.

Among the opportunities/strengths of Almaty 2022’s plans, the IOC cited the compact concept and venue plan which would provide a good athlete experience, operational and cost efficiency and low environmental impacts. The IOC also said that 10 venues already exist or are under construction, along with praising short travel times within and between zones, good snow conditions in the Alpine environment and Olympic Villages located in close proximity to competition venues.

The report said changing market conditions could impact securing private investors and developers, although the Olympic Villages are underwritten by public authorities. The IOC added that “abundant” natural snow will reduce water and energy requirements for artificial snow.

However, while praising Almaty 2022’s compact plan as a cost saving measure, several red flags have been raised from a finance and marketing standpoint. The IOC said economic factors, including low oil prices and exchange rate issues, could negatively impact Games preparations and the government’s capacity to provide financial and other support.

It added the expense side of the operational budget requires further development and alignment with operational planning. Combined with revenue uncertainty related to ticketing and sponsorship, the IOC said the budget “presents risks”. The report said reliance on the private sector for the delivery of Olympic Villages, the Media Village and IOC group hotels creates a risk if market factors change. The report added the budget would be strengthened if more developed venue use agreements were in place for competition venues and critical non-competition venues.

Beijing’s vision for the Games seeks to incorporate winter sports into people’s lives, with the ultimate goal of improving overall fitness and health. Beijing 2022 has offered a regional concept intended to develop a winter sports market for more than 300 million people in northern China. The IOC said the vision is fully aligned with national economic growth strategies and priorities.

The report said Beijing’s concept takes advantage of infrastructure improvements resulting from the region’s long-term development strategy. Six venues exist and three are planned irrespective of the Games, while transportation within each zone is said to be “convenient and quick” and Olympic Villages are in close proximity to competition venues.

The IOC said the combination of a thorough and detailed budget, a satisfactory level of contingency and the potential upside of marketing revenue result in a low risk budget. No risks were detailed in the fields of legal framework, accommodation and media operations.

However, the IOC said there is a “substantial reliance” on snowmaking in all mountain venues especially Yanqing, adding there could be no snow outside of the racecourse, especially in Yanqing, impacting the visual perception of the snow sports setting. The IOC also stressed that the scale of regional air quality issues is “very significant”.

The host city for the 2022 Games will be elected at the 128th IOC Session in Kuala Lumpur following a final presentation by the cities to the full IOC membership on July 31.