By Nick Butler

Almaty 2022 have confirmed seven changes to their initial Winter Olympic and Paralympic proposals ©Almaty 2022Eight changes to Almaty's 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Bid Book proposals have been confirmed, with total savings of $550 million (£360 million/€498 million) projected when operating and infrastructural budgets are combined.

The changes arose following last month's inspection visit by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Evaluation Committee, after which a two-week deadline was imposed for alterations to be finalised.

All Alpine skiing events would now be held at Almatau Mountain, while slopestyle and ski and snowboard cross, as well as parallel slalom and giant slalom competitions, will all be moved to the Ak Bulak Resort alongside other freestyle skiing and snowboard disciplines.

This would remove the need for expensive renovation work at the initial venue for downhill and Super G events in Shymbolak, the old Soviet resort which will now no longer be used, while the proposed freestyle and Alpine skiing venues at Tau Park will also be excluded.

Under the revised plans, ice sledge hockey will also be shifted from the Almaty Olympic Arena to the existing Baluan Sholak venue in the city centre, while capacity at the mountain Athletes' Village in Medeu will be reduced from 1,000 to 350 beds.

Shymbulak resort has been among proposed venues cut from the costs in order to reduce costs ©Almaty 2022Shymbulak resort has been among proposed venues cut from the costs in order to reduce costs ©Almaty 2022

Changes have also been made to proposed media accommodation plans, while the Medeu Mountain Media Sub Centre has been eliminated completely, presumably because of the lack of skiing action at nearby Shymbolak.

The changes are based on the "flexibility and creativity made possible by Agenda 2020", it was explained, to make Almaty's concept "even more" efficient and affordable.

The operating budget could be reduced by over $100 million (£65 million/€90 million), it is forecast, while the wider infrastructural costs should have decreased by more than $450 million (£295 million/€410 million).

Neither of the full budgets have yet been revealed. 

"These revisions, based on the Agenda 2020 reforms, allowed us to save over half a billion US dollars," claimed Almaty 2022 vice-chairman Andrey Kryukov.

"While at the same time making our concept - already the most efficient and compact in over 30 years - even more convenient, more efficient and better tailored for the athletes' experience at the 2022 Winter Games." 

Although Almaty is still perceived as the outsider in the two-horse with Beijing - which will be inspected from March 24 to 28 - the changes are a strong move from the Kazakh city, which is seeking to maximise its strengths, and especially how in line it is with the spirit of Agenda 2020.

In comparison, the Chinese bid is far less compact, with the mountain venue at Zhangjiakou some 190 kilometres away from the ice sport hub in Beijing itself, although similar changes could yet be made their following the Evaluation Commission's visit.

A new high speed train line will reduce travel-times between Beijing and Zhangjiakou, it is hoped, but the high spending required is less in line with Agenda 2020 themes ©Getty ImagesA new high speed train line will reduce travel-times between Beijing and Zhangjiakou, it is hoped, but the high spending required is less in line with Agenda 2020 themes
©Getty Images

"Our Concept guarantees short distances to venues so athletes can focus on the most important competitions of their lives, instead of enduring long travel times," added Kryukov. 

 "Our Concept guarantees ample sports and recreation facilities in all three Villages to keep the athletes fit - and relaxed.

"And perhaps most importantly for the athletes, Almaty 2022 guarantees two additional weeks testing period for all venues for all National Olympic Committees prior to the Games.

"This ensures true fair play for all athletes preparing for Almaty 2022, is another example of what we mean by [bid slogan] 'Keeping it Real.'"

Similar sentiments were put forward by Kazakhstan most famous Winter Olympian, Lillehammer 1994 50km cross country champion and the bid's co-vice-chairman, Vladimir Smirnov, who reiterated how nine of the 13 required venues already exist. 

"This means reduced costs, minimal environmental impact on our beautiful mountains and a great long-term, sustainable legacy for winter sports in the Almaty region," he said.

With just four-and-a-half-months to go until the IOC members cast their votes at the Session in Kuala Lumpur on July 31, the challenge now is keeping this concept at the forefront, and convincing the IOC membership of the merits of supporting their bid over that of Beijing.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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