International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) President René Fasel has risked upsetting the International Olympic Committee (IOC) by predicting Beijing will win the race for the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
His prediction on the eve of Beijing and Almaty, the only surviving contenders in a contest that originally featured six candidates, are expected to submit their Candidature Files to the IOC at its headquarters in Lausanne tomorrow.
Speaking during the IIHF World Junior Championships in Toronto, Fasel, an IOC Executive Board member since 2008, predicted the Chinese city would win when asked about the prospect of the world's best players participating in future Games.
"We know that 2022 will be in Asia, Kazakhstan or China," he told OurWindsor.ca
"I think China is favoured there to win that race, so 2022 will go to China."
Fasel admitted that he was breaking IOC protocol by so openly backing one candidate over another, especially as one of the leaders of the seven sports that make up the Winter Olympics.
"I have to apologise, I do not have any right to do so, to say as an IOC member that they are favourites," he said.
"So they [the IOC] will kick my ass, but what can I do?
"This is a fact, China is a favourite."
Although the official's words only reiterate a widely expressed view already held by most in Olympic circles, the fact someone so closely involved is prepared to publicly predict the outcome is another indication of the poor campaign run so far by Almaty.
Almaty were many people's favourites following the withdrawal of strong European candidates such as Oslo and Stockholm, but has squandered its advantage due to lack of funding and Government support.
As recently as last month, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev admitted he had doubts about the bid but he now supported it.
An IOC spokesperson told insidethegames today that both cities are expected to submit their Candidature Files - a key staging post in the 18 month long bidding race - tomorrow, even though the official IOC deadline is Wednesday (January 7).
Beijing's bid team have already confirmed they will be submitting their Files tomorrow, with their delegation expected to include bid leader and Beijing Mayor Wang Anshun, along with Chinese Olympic Committee President Peng Liu.
An IOC Evaluation Commission headed by Russian member Alexander Zhukov is then scheduled to visit both candidates in February and March to prepare a technical risk assessment to assist IOC members in electing the host city.
A final decision is then due be made by the membership in a vote held during the IOC Session in Kuala Lumpur on July 31.
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]
December 2014: China launches sport and cultural programme to foster support for 2022 Olympic and Paralympic bid
December 2014: Kazakhstan President admits doubts over Almaty 2022 Olympic bid but now claims he backs it
December 2014: David Owen: Almaty 2022 - the Bright Road to possible Olympic victory
November 2014: Beijing 2022 receives praise from seven International Federations during latest visits
November 2014: Almaty and Beijing bids set for key marker in 2022 Olympic race