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Beijing favorite in IOC vote for 2022 Winter Olympics

U.S. Olympic Committee Pulls Boston's 2024 Olympic Bid


KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) -- When it comes to votes on Olympic host cities, geopolitics can play a crucial role in determining the victor.

That's likely to be the case more than ever Friday when the International Olympic Committee chooses between Beijing and Almaty, Kazakhstan, for the 2022 Winter Games.

It's a contest between China, the world's most populous nation and a rising global giant with a huge economy, against a young country and former Soviet republic in Central Asia that is hoping to establish itself as a player on the world stage.

Against that backdrop and after a low-key campaign, Beijing goes in as the favorite as it bids to become the first city to host both summer and winter games.

"The general feeling is that Almaty may do a little better than most people would have thought," IOC vice president Craig Reedie told The Associated Press on Thursday. "You have to believe the sheer weight of Chinese influence on a worldwide basis may be enough to swing them over the line."

Neither Beijing nor Almaty was given much of a chance of landing the games when the 2022 bid race opened two years ago. But they found themselves as the only two candidates left after four European cities - including Oslo and Stockholm - pulled out for political or financial reasons. Some were scared off the by the $51 billion price tag associated with the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

13 PHOTOS
Beijing 2022 Olympic Bid
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Beijing favorite in IOC vote for 2022 Winter Olympics
International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach shows the card with the name Beijing as the winning name of the 2022 Winter Olympic bid city, during the 128th International Olympic Committee (IOC) session in Kuala Lumpur on July 31, 2015. AFP PHOTO / MANAN VATSYAYANA (Photo credit should read MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)
Volunteers react in front of journalists a few minutes before the announcement by the International Olympic Committee voting for Beijing to host the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing on July 31, 2015. AFP PHOTO / FRED DUFOUR (Photo credit should read FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
People react as they watch live coverage on a large TV screen of the announcement of Beijing as the host city for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, in Beijing on July 31, 2015. AFP PHOTO / GREG BAKER (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - JULY 31: People celebrate at Olympic Plaza as Beijing wins the bidding of 2022 Olympic Winter Games on July 31, 2015 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Xiaolu Chu/Getty Images)
A mother celebrates with her daughter after watching the announcement of Beijing as the host city for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing on July 31, 2015. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read GREG BAKER/AFP/Getty Images)
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - JULY 31: Vice president of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games Bid Committee Zhang Haidi, Mayor of Beijing Wang Anshun, China's Vice Premier Liu Yandong, President of the Chinese Olympic Committee Liu Peng and members of the of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games Bid Committee celebrate after Beijing, China was announced as the host city for the 2022 Winter Olympics during the Announcement Ceremony at the 128th IOC Session at the Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre on July 31, 2015 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Photo by Olivia Harris-Pool/Getty Images)
Volunteers parade in front of journalists a few minutes before the announcement by the International Olympic Committee voting for Beijing to host the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing on July 31, 2015. AFP PHOTO / FRED DUFOUR (Photo credit should read FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
Children play in front of the Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing on July 30, 2015, on the eve of voting by the International Olympic Committee on the city's bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Beijing Olympic officials Oshrugged off questions July 27 over snow levels and spread-out venues in their 2022 Winter Games bid as they launched their final pitch in Malaysia ahead of an IOC vote this week. AFP PHOTO / FRED DUFOUR (Photo credit should read FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
Chinese people gather to celebrate as Beijing is announced as the host city for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, in Zhangjiakou, in northern China's Hebei province on July 31, 2015. Zhangjiakou will co-host the Games with neighboring Beijing. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
Children play in front of the Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing on July 30, 2015, on the eve of voting by the International Olympic Committee on the city's bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Beijing Olympic officials Oshrugged off questions July 27 over snow levels and spread-out venues in their 2022 Winter Games bid as they launched their final pitch in Malaysia ahead of an IOC vote this week. AFP PHOTO / FRED DUFOUR (Photo credit should read FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
A woman poses in front of the Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing on July 30, 2015, on the eve of voting by the International Olympic Committee on the city's bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Beijing Olympic officials Oshrugged off questions July 27 over snow levels and spread-out venues in their 2022 Winter Games bid as they launched their final pitch in Malaysia ahead of an IOC vote this week. AFP PHOTO / FRED DUFOUR (Photo credit should read FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
Children play in front of the Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing on July 30, 2015, on the eve of voting by the International Olympic Committee on the city's bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. Beijing Olympic officials Oshrugged off questions July 27 over snow levels and spread-out venues in their 2022 Winter Games bid as they launched their final pitch in Malaysia ahead of an IOC vote this week. AFP PHOTO / FRED DUFOUR (Photo credit should read FRED DUFOUR/AFP/Getty Images)
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If Friday's vote among 86 IOC members were strictly on technical merits, Almaty would have an advantage because of its winter sports history and setting, surrounded by mountain peaks covered by plenty of natural snow - hence the slogan "Keeping it Real." Almaty boasts 70 percent of venues in place and a compact layout with all venues within a 30-kilometer (18-mile) radius.

"We have a lot of challenges in Kazakhstan," Prime Minister Karim Massimov said. "But snow is our advantage."

Beijing would use several venues from the 2008 Summer Olympics, including the "Bird's Nest" stadium and "Water Cube" arena.

"Legacy is everything," former NBA star and Beijing bid team member Yao Ming said. "Beijing 2008 allowed us to experience the Olympic spirit, and 2022 gives us a chance to carry on the spirit."

Beijing's mountain events would be held at venues in Yanqing and Zhangjiakou, 60 and 140 kilometers (40 and 90 miles) away from the city. A planned high-speed rail line to Zhangjiakou is designed to cut travel time to 50 minutes.

In contrast to Almaty, Beijing would rely heavily on artificial snow. Chinese officials said they have plenty of water supplies and snow-making equipment to provide excellent conditions.

Weighing in Beijing's favor is the IOC's familiarity with China from the 2008 Games and trust that the Chinese can deliver. China's pitch to develop winter sports to a market of more than 300 million people in northern China also resonates with the IOC, as does the country's political and economic stability. Lesser familiar Kazakhstan, whose 75-year-old president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has been in power since 1989, is seen as more of a risk by many IOC members.

Both countries have been criticized for their human rights records. Watchdog groups have called on the IOC to ensure that the winning bid upholds new clauses in the host city contract on non-discrimination and protection of rights during the games. However, IOC President Thomas Bach said Thursday the provisions could only be enforced "in the context of the Olympic Games."

"The IOC has to respect the laws of sovereign states," he said the opening ceremony of the body's 128th session. "The IOC is not a world government."

IOC votes can be unpredictable, as members vote often for individual reasons. This is especially the case when it comes to the Winter Games, as a majority of the members have little connection with winter sports. Many members are more interested in the race for the 2024 Summer Games.

Almaty is bidding for a second time, but this is the first time it made it to the vote after being cut in the preliminary stage for the 2014 Games. Securing the Olympics would represent a major step in raising its global profile.

"In the international arena, we can place Kazakhstan on the map and place Almaty on the international sports map," Massimov, the prime minister, told a small group of reporters. "Twenty-five years ago we were part of the Soviet Union. We had a different image. We want to change the image. We want the international audience to understand better what we are doing and where we heading in the future."

LOOKING BACK AT SOCHI

20 PHOTOS
A look back on the Sochi Olympics
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Beijing favorite in IOC vote for 2022 Winter Olympics
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Snowflakes transform into four Olympic rings with one failing to form during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Fisht Olympic Stadium on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 11: Shaun White of the United States crashes out in the Snowboard Men's Halfpipe Finals on day four of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on February 11, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 08: Qingshuang Yue of China during curling training on day 1 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Ice Cube on February 8, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 08: Ashley Wagner of the United States reacts to her score after competing in the Figure Skating Team Ladies Short Program during day one of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Iceberg Skating Palace on February 8, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Darren Cummings/Pool/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 08: Team Canada talk before thre game prior to the Women's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group A Game against Switzerland on day 1 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Shayba Arena on February 8, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 15: Kamil Stoch of Poland jumps during the Men`s Large Hill Individual 1st Round on day 8 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at RusSki Gorki Jumping Center on February 15, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 12: Eric Frenzel of Germany celebrates as he wins the gold medal during the Nordic Combined Individual Gundersen Normal Hill and 10km Cross Country on day 5 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the RusSki Gorki Nordic Combined Skiing Stadium on February 12, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 14: Hansin Lee of South Korea starts a run during the Men's Skeleton heats on Day 7 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Sliding Center Sanki on February 14, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 21: Krystyna Palka of Poland competes during the Women's 4 x 6 km Relay during day 14 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Laura Cross-country Ski & Biathlon Center on February 21, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 07: Jo Alexander Koppang of Norway in the Luge during a training session ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Sanki Sliding Center on February 7, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 13: Elise Christie of Great Britain (C) falls and collides with Seung-Hi Park of South Korea (L) and Arianna Fontana of Italy (R) as she competes in the Short Track Speed Skating Ladies' 500 m Final on day 6 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at at Iceberg Skating Palace on February 13, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 15: Anna Fenninger of Austria in action during the Alpine Skiing Women's Super-G on day 8 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor Alpine Center on February 15, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 09: Sarah Hendrickson of the United States jumps during the Ladies' Normal Hill Individual Ski Jumping training on day 2 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at RusSki Gorki Jumping Center on February 9, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 14: Lydia Lassila of Australia practices before the Freestyle Skiing Ladies' Aerials Qualification on day seven of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on February 14, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 21: (L-R) Fanny Smith of Switzerland, Anna Holmlund of Sweden, Katrin Ofner of Austria and Kelsey Serwa of Canada compete in the Freestyle Skiing Womens' Ski Cross Semi Finals on day 14 of the 2014 Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on February 21, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 12: Gold medalist Eric Frenzel of Germany jumps in celebration alongside silver medalist Akito Watabe of Japan (L) and bronze medalist Magnus Krog of Norway (R) during the flower ceremony for the Men?s Nordic Combined Individual Gundersen Normal Hill and 10km Cross Country on day 5 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the RusSki Gorki Nordic Combined Skiing Stadium on February 12, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 14: Lydia Lassila of Australia competes in the Freestyle Skiing Ladies' Aerials Qualification on day seven of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor Extreme Park on February 14, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 22: Sami Vatanen #45 and Tuomo Ruutu #15 of Finland celebrate with teammates after defeating the United States 5-0 during the Men's Ice Hockey Bronze Medal Game on Day 15 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 22, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
(From L) Canada's gold medallists Duncan Keith, goalkeeper Carey Price and Jonathan Toews celebrate during the Men's Ice Hockey Medal Ceremony at the Bolshoy Ice Dome during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 23, 2014. AFP PHOTO / JONATHAN NACKSTRAND (Photo credit should read JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images)
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