SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Almaty has most of the venues already in place to host the 2022 Winter Olympics and would spend only a fraction of what Russia invested in the Sochi Games, leaders of the bid from Kazakhstan said Thursday.
Almaty, one of five candidates for 2022, is bidding for a second time after failing to make the cut for the 2014 Games, which went to Sochi.
Almaty, the commercial capital of the oil-rich former Soviet republic in Central Asia, hosted the 2011 Asian Winter Games and will stage the Winter University Games in 2017.
Bid officials said eight of the 12 venues required for the Olympics are ready now and 10 will be completed by 2017.
Andrey Kryukov, an executive board member of Kazakhstan's national Olympic body, said Almaty will rely on existing venues — unlike Sochi, which built everything from scratch.
Russia's overall bill for Sochi was $51 billion, a figure that covers direct games costs and long-term regeneration projects for the Black Sea resort region.
"Our budget will be many, many times less than here," Kryukov said at a news conference.
He said Almaty's infrastructure budget is still being finalized but will "compare to the operational budget." Operational budgets for the games usually total around $2-3 billion dollars.
Almaty is competing against Beijing; Krakow, Poland; Lviv, Ukraine; and Oslo, Norway. While Almaty was an outsider for 2014, it shapes up as a serious contender this time, with the other bid cities all facing various disadvantages.
The IOC will select a short list of finalists on July 8-9 and choose the winning city on July 31, 2015.
The Almaty team included Denis Ten, the Kazakh figure skater who won the bronze medal in Sochi.
Like the Sochi Games, Ten said, the Olympics in Almaty would show how "the life of an entire region can be transformed."
Almaty already has a new ski jumping complex near the city center. It also plans to use the famous high-altitude Medeo speed skating oval on the outskirts of Almaty, which produced more than 100 world records during the Soviet era. Ski venues are reachable by road from Almaty in 30 minutes, the officials said.
Almaty would also build an Olympic park on the edge of the city comprising an athletes village, main media center and curling and figure skating arenas.
"We have real winter," Kryukov said. "We have state of the art facilities. We have the drive and the ability. What else do we need? We need the games."
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