Wei Jizhong, one of China's top sports officials and a key advisor for the Beijing's bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, has claimed the Chinese capital is now "50-50" with rival bidder Almaty to be awarded the Games.
This comes less than a month before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Evaluation Commission inspects Beijing, and a week after a similar visit was paid to the Kazakh city, its only remaining rival in a two-horse race.
"I think it's 50-50 against Kazakhstan's Almaty," Jizhong, a former Chinese Olympic Committee vice-president and President of the International Volleyball Federation, who remains honorary life vice-president of the Olympic Council of Asia, told news agency Xinhua.
"Both cities have the capability to host the Games.
"And the question is, which city is more suitable for the 2022 Winter Games?
"When the evaluation team comes, the most important thing [for us] is not to make mistakes."
Ever since the withdrawal of the European contenders Stockholm, Kraków, Lviv and Oslo last year, Beijing has been widely seen as the clear favourite, with strong organisation and clear support from political and sporting figures.
But in recent weeks, Almaty appears to have finally picked up the pace, with the IOC having praised Kazakh organisers for the compact nature of their bid, which is fully in line with the themes of sustainability and affordability at the heart of the Agenda 2020 reform process unanimously approved in Monte Carlo in December.
In comparison, Beijing, where all ice sports would be held, is 190 kilometres from the mountain sport venue at Zhangjiakou, with this distance to be made manageable, it is claimed, only by the construction of a new high speed, but expensive, rail line.
Although Beijing remains the favourite nonetheless, it is thus imperative that they do not allow complacency to set in, and the words of Jizhong, one of a number of experienced Chinese administrators supporting the bid, can be taken in that context.
Other officials, however, have been more bullish, with Lu Shengrong, a former IOC member who headed the world body for badminton from 1993 to 2001 when it was known as the International Badminton Federation, talking of her "optimism" regarding China's chances.
"Beijing has an advantage, or experience, that any other cities don't," she added, before praising the "smoothest communication and cooperation between the host city and the IOC in the Olympic history".
With China boasting three IOC members, including one of the body's four vice-presidents Zaiqing Yu, they appear to have a major networking advantage over Kazakhstan's effort.
Almaty's most connected supporters are bid vice-chairman Andrey Kryukov - who holds posts within the International Swimming Federation, World Anti Doping Agency and Association of National Olympic Committees - and National Olympic Committee of the Republic of Kazakhstan secretary general, Timur Dossymbetov.
Yang Yang, the former speed skater who is another of China's IOC members, has declined to predict what will happen, but insisted the bid is also "in line with the IOC's Agenda 2020", before explaining how they are now busy preparing for the IOC visit.
That visit is due to take place from March 24 to 28, with reports on both visits by the Commission due to be released on June 1.
The two cities are then scheduled to present to the IOC members at a Candidate City Briefing in Lausanne on June 8, with a final decision as to which city will host the 2022 Games then due to be made at the IOC Session in Kuala Lumpur on July 31.
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]
February 2015: Nick Butler: Almaty 2022 have showcased an impressive bid but much work remains
February 2015: IOC confirm no 2022 bid presentations will take place at SportAccord Convention
February 2015: Basketball giant Yao among Chinese sporting "legends" unveiled as Beijing 2022 ambassadors
January 2015: China takes part in World Snow Day celebrations to promote Beijing 2022 bid
January 2015: Sheikh Ahmad meets Chinese President Xi to discuss Beijing 2022 bid