Almaty narrows gap on Beijing in 2022 Olympics race

Kuala Lumpur, July 27: Beijing and Almaty today embarked on a frantic final lobbying campaign for the 2022 Winter Olympics ahead of a decision this week on the winner.

High level delegations from China and Kazakhstan are in Kuala Lumpur where the International Olympic Committee will hold a secret ballot on Friday to decide between the two rivals.

The Games are guaranteed to go to Asia for the second time in a row after 2018 in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

But Almaty has been gaining ground in recent weeks against the Chinese capital which has been considered overwhelming favourite for several months.

Beijing has thrown its heavyweight lobbying power into securing the Games, highlighting its successful staging of the 2008 summer Olympics and its deep pockets.

Its team in Kuala Lumpur includes Yao Ming, the giant former NBA star.

But the oil rich Central Asian republic of Kazakhstan also has cash and has impressed with its promise of a "real" Olympics with all of the facilities and plenty of snow within 33 kilometres (20 miles) of its former capital.

China is considered a safe bet. And if it wins, Beijing will become the first city to host the summer and winter Olympics.

President Xi Jinping has said that holding the 2022 games "ignite the passion" for winter sports among a new generation of Chinese.

But Chongli, where the Olympic village is proposed, is more than 160 kilometres (100 miles) from Beijing and some venues are 200 kilometres away.

The Alpine ski venue at Yanqing will need artificial snow to put on the contest.

Almaty played on China's lack of snow with its "Keeping it Real" slogan that impressed IOC members who went on an inspection visit in June.

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