A 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic campaign that never quite captured the world’s imagination meandered towards its conclusion in the Malaysian capital today, with Almaty still making pointed reference to “real snow” and Beijing deluging us with air quality statistics.

What remains is the careful choreography of tomorrow's presentations and, of course, the all-important vote.

While it is rarely wise to try and second guess a body as enigmatic as the International Olympic Committee (IOC), it is fair to say that an Almaty victory would come as a huge surprise.

The Kazakh underdog came out fighting in its last press briefing before the big day.

Akhmetzhan Yessimov, Almaty’s Mayor, sought to counter question-marks over the current strength of the oil-fuelled national economy with the assertion that the city had experienced growth of eight per cent in the first quarter of this year.

Almaty 2022 are the outsiders but are making sure they go down fighting
Almaty 2022 are the outsiders but are making sure they go down fighting ©IOC

Bid vice-chairman Andrey Kryukov described his country as “an emerging, friendly and cosmopolitan” partner for the West and Asia, while stating that the cost of its project equated to 0.3 per cent of Kazakhstan’s gross domestic product over seven years.

He put annual gross domestic product  of a country that clearly harbours big ambitions of further raising its global profile at $232 billion (£149 billion/€212 billion).

In the wake of a venues video eulogising the region’s “naturally snow-covered mountains” and promising “no significant transport spending”, it was also Kryukov who delivered the day’s most quotable quote.

“Our town is a real winter town, with a real winter sports culture, real nature and real mountains and real snow at the end,” he said.

He also sought to emphasise the Almaty blueprint’s “very low environmental impact”.

“We don’t touch our nature around the city,” he said.

Beijing adopted the interesting approach of staging simultaneous briefings in different rooms for English-speaking and Chinese-speaking media.

“China is a country that delivers every promise it makes,” Wang Hui, the bid’s communications director, informed those of us in the English room, backed by a panoramic, snow-bound Great Wall of China, and the slogan, “Joyful rendez-vous upon pure ice and snow”.

“We will deliver 100 per cent of what we promise.”

Zhangjiakou Mayor Hou Liang insisted that the planned snow sports centre had “enough snow”, seeking to deal with a frequent criticism of the Chinese bid.

He put average snow depth annually at 60-100 centimetres.

Beijing claim they will
Beijing claim they will "deliver 100 per cent" of what they promised if they are awarded the 2022 Winter Olympics ©IOC

Zhou Xing, the bid’s deputy director of finance and marketing, disclosed that estimated proceeds from domestic sponsorship deals should Beijing win were $660 million (£423 million/€604 million) in 2014 dollars.

Despite such interesting factual nuggets in some areas, and a plethora of detail on how Beijing’s air quality is improving thanks to a $130 billion (£83 million/€119 billion) four-year clean air action plan, it still proved remarkably difficult to elicit an estimate of the cost of the high-speed rail line that will link Beijing and Zhangjiakou just under 200 kilometres away.

An obliging Hong Kong journalist eventually came up with a figure of Ұ15 billion (£1.5 billion/$2.4 billion/€2.2 billion) that had apparently been revealed recently.

He said this was out of an impressive annual budget of Ұ800 billion (£82 million/$129 billion/€118 billion)  that the country is currently spending on high-speed rail.

In the age of Agenda 2020, such spending power may no longer be the almost unanswerable asset it might once have been in bid battles.

But publication this evening of the team who will deliver Beijing’s final presentation highlighted another area in which they most definitely do have an edge: inside knowledge.

That 11-strong team includes three IOC members, of whom one - Yu Zaiqing - is an IOC vice president.

That is three IOC members more than their only rivals.

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