By Nick Butler at the InterContinental in Almaty
Overriding Governmental support for Almaty's 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic campaign has been demonstrated by the appointment of Kazakhstan Prime Minister Karim Massimov as bid leader, officials claimed here today.
Almaty's campaign has not suffered from the same degree of public and political opposition as to those that sounded the death-knell of 2022 bids from Stockholm, Kraków and Oslo last year, but Government endorsement had been quiet in comparison with the demonstrations of support from China for Beijing, the other contender in the race.
Nursultan Nazarbayev, the country's President since Kazakhstan gained independence in 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Union, admitted in December he had initially "had doubts" about the bid but now supported it.
But he also claimed at the time he expected some events to be held in Astana, the city 1,200 kilometres to the Northwest that replaced Almaty as the country's capital in 1997.
But, during the ongoing International Olympic Committee (IOC) Evaluation Commission inspections here, officials have insisted there is now unanimous agreement that all events should be held in Almaty, as planned.
Foreign Affairs Minister Yerlan Idrissov is among those to have presented to the 12-strong IOC Panel this week, while Minister of Culture and Sports Arystanbek Muhamediuly met with IOC President Thomas Bach during a visit to Almaty last October.
Massimov himself, whose bid leader appointment had not been widely known until today, was also due to visit, but was ultimately unable to attend due political distractions in Astana that saw the ruling party call a snap Presidential election most likely for later this year.
Explaining the Prime Minister's appointment today, Almaty 2022 vice-chairman Andrey Kryukov - very much the face of the bid here this week - claimed the Prime Minister will participate in future presentations and events.
This would be likely to involve the IOC Session in Kuala Lumpur, where the members will are due to cast their votes on July 31.
It is possible that President Nazarbayev will also attend.
National leaders have played a key role in the outcome of recent bidding races, with Britain's former Prime Minister Tony Blair, Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe among those all seen as having significantly contributed to the victories for London 2012, Sochi 2014 and Tokyo 2020 respectively.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has often spoken in support out in support of Beijing 2022, meeting with IOC officials during last Summer's Summer Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing.
Kryukov added that multiple Government Guarantees have been given for Almaty 2022, including that "any potential shortfalls that arise when hosting the Games will be covered", with the bid's sponsor being National Welfare Fund Samruk-Kazyna, of which the State is sole shareholder.
Kryukov spoke today alongside the likes of Sochi 2014 figure skating bronze medallist Denis Ten and former 100 metres hurdler and current Member of Parliament Olga Shishigina, another Kazakh athlete whose career has been tainted by drugs.
Like London 2012 road race cycling champion Alexander Vinokourov, who remains a Bid Ambassador for Almaty 2022, she served a two year doping ban from 1996 to 1998 before returning to win a gold medal at Sydney 2000.
A message of confidence was put forward following a busy day of meetings, with officials hailing an IOC Commission poll which found public support of between 75 and 78 per cent, as well as that only 10 per cent of people are against the bid.
Themes on the agenda at the Ritz Carlton Hotel included legal aspects, Games safety, security and medical services, marketing, finance and political and public support, as well as the Paralympics, which would follow shortly after the Olympics.
National Paralympic Committee of Kazakhstan President Darkhan Kaletayev claimed the Games - which would take place in the same venues as those used for the Olympics - would be a "great opportunity to raise awareness, promote social integration and create new disability and accessibility standards across the country.
"Paralympic Games planning is fully supported by our National Paralympic Committee and forms an integral part of the brilliantly compact Almaty 2022 concept," he added.
Following a Gala Dinner tonight, the Evaluation Commission inspection is due to come to a close here tomorrow.
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