By Mikhail Vasiliev ,AFP
ALMATY, Kazakhstan — Inspired by the success of neighbors Russia in staging the Olympics in the southern resort city of Sochi, Kazakhstan has set its sights on hosting the 2022 Winter Games in its former capital of Almaty. ��We will seriously boost the country’s image if we win the right to stage the Olympics,�� the mayor of Almaty, Akhmetzhan Yessimov said recently. ��We will prove that Kazakhstan is a powerful country which is capable of staging the world’s biggest sports events. This is very important for such a young country as Kazakhstan.�� Kazakhstan, which is mostly known to the Western public through the British-American mockumentary ��Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan��, currently looks like the favorite in the race for the right to host the Games. Almaty, formerly known as Alma-Ata, is the biggest megapolis in the Central Asian country. Astana replaced it as capital in 1997 and Almaty is now known as Kazakhstan’s southern capital.
With a population of 1.6 million people, it was the first city to place a bid in August 2013 for staging the world’s winter sports extravaganza. An impressive set of bidders including Oslo, Stockholm, Barcelona, Helsinki, Munich and others joined Almaty in bidding to host the Games but many later dropped out from the race, leaving Almaty head-to-head with Beijing. Supporters of the idea of Almaty’s hosting the Olympics �X including 90 percent of its population �X have expressed confidence that they have an advantage over Beijing, which has already staged the Summer Games in 2008. But some of Kazakhstan’s sports chiefs are far less optimistic both about the city’s chances for the win and the country’s ability to stage the Olympics without serious damage to the state budget.