Beijing and Almaty faced off for the first time as the rival cities presented their bids for the 2022 Winter Games to hundreds of Olympic delegates in Bangkok on Friday.
The Chinese and Kazakh cities are the last two standing after withdrawals by four other candidates from the costly process, with Beijing now considered the strong favourite.
Neither bid looks perfect with Kazakhstan a newcomer to hosting international events, and Beijing often hit by pollution and with scant snow, as well as little tradition in winter sports.
But both promised to deliver an outstanding tournament in what will be the third Olympics in a row in Asia, following the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics and Tokyo’s Summer Games in 2020.
Beijing’s Mayor Wang Anshun flew in for the presentation, at the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) general assembly, despite the upcoming APEC meeting in his city.
“With the Olympic Games the city of Beijing aims to make history by becoming the first city that has hosted both the Summer Games and the Winter Games,” Wang told the general assembly.
“Beijing is inspired by the aspirations of the Olympic movement and with your support Beijing will rise to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. We will host a Games that is secure, reliable and risk-free.”
The promotional video for Beijing’s bid, themed “Joyful Rendezvous on Pure Ice and Snow”, featured 2008 Olympic venues like the Water Cube and the promise of a high-speed rail link 200 kilometres (125 miles) to Zhangjiakou, the proposed hub for snow sports.
Wang said a Beijing Games could ignite winter sports interest in a catchment market of 300 million, and would promise further economic opportunities through infrastructure projects.
Almaty’s bid team, in matching blue suits and red ties, presented a slick apple-style logo and promised an event in a genuine winter sports centre with most venues already in existence.
They include the Shymbulak ski resort, which dates back to the 1950s, and the Baluan Sholak Sports Palace, which was built in 1967. Both were renovated for the 2011 Asian Winter Games.
“We have dedicated many resources to the development of sport since independence (from Russia in 1990),” said bid committee board member Ilya Urazakov.
“Almaty is a true mountain city. Everywhere you stand, you can see the beautiful mountain range.”
Almaty is Kazakhstan’s biggest city but its population of 1.5 million is dwarfed by the 11.5 million inhabitants of Beijing, capital of the Asian economic powerhouse.
Both cities will now lobby for support ahead of the vote to choose the 2022 hosts at the International Olympic Committee’s session in Kuala Lumpur next July.