Interview: PyeongChang Winter Olympics not to undermine Beijing's bid for 2022 edition

By Sportswriter Ma Bangjie

ASHGABAT, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- Geographical factor would not constitute a disadvantage for Beijing and Zhangjiakou's joint bid for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, Istanbul 2020 Olympics bid chief Hasan Arat told Xinhua in a recent interview.

There is a growing concern in China that Beijing and Zhangjiakou's chance would be affected by the fact that PyeongChang of South Korea is to host the 2018 Winter Games.

Beijing Sports Bureau Chief Li Yingchuan is one who shares the concern.

"There is a rotation rule, though unwritten, in the bid. Since PyeongChang won the 2018 bid, Beijing as another Asian city will face a daunting task to beat the odds," he said.

Arat, Chairman of Istanbul 2020 Bid Committee, who lost to Tokyo in the IOC vote showdown in September, noted that, rather than worrying about the geographical factor, Beijing and Zhangjiakou bid team should focus more on playing a strong "opportunity card" to convince the IOC members.

"The IOC has always said that there is no official geographical rotation policy. I am not an IOC member, but for me it seems less about geography and more about opportunity," he said.

"Geography is relevant when it gives the IOC a new opportunity: a chance to touch a region they have never been to before. Just think back to Rio's famous map of previous host cities during their successful bid," he said.

AIPS President Gianni Merlo, who was attending an international sports media forum in Ashgabat, agreed with Arat on the geographic factor issue in Beijing and Zhangjiakou's bid.

"The problem is not about geography, it is about which offer you can make, which kind of priority and security you are giving," said Merlo who covered 10 summer Olympics and as many winter Olympics.

He suggested that if Beijing and Zhangjiakou win their bid, the winter Olympics could leave massive legacy in China.

"In some way, the offer of China can open a new opportunity toward to a strong country with a lot of people competing in the winter sports. You have to think of many different situations, not only bout geography. I would look to the future, to the evolution, not only about geography."

Drawing on the lessons learned from Istanbul's bid, Arat reckoned that opportunity needs to be supported by prooves.

"We offered the Olympic Movement the chance to bridge to a brand new culture, to a country and a region that has never hosted the Games before. But this fresh and exciting opportunity had to be combined with proof that we could deliver," he said.

"We needed to demonstrate to the IOC that we, as a city and as a nation, have the capacity to stage a well-organized, well-funded, safe, and efficient Games," he said.

To Arat's understandable disappointment, despite Istanbul's 16.8 billion-dollar budget to transform the city, they still lost to Tokyo in their bids for the 2020 Olympic Games.

"This planned investment would have ensured that Istanbul would be more than capable of hosting the Games in 2020, but sometimes property owners want to see evidence of you infrastructure in action and already in place," he said.

The success of 2008 Olympic Games put Beijing and Zhangjiakou's bid in a position better than Istanbul's, according to the Vice President of Turkish National Olympic Committee.

"It is a different situation to Turkey's because China has already overcome that 'trust deficit' that confronts all emerging sports nations and proved to the IOC that they are capable of delivering on their promises," he said.

"I think the 2008 Games will give Beijing and Zhangjiakou's 2022 bid a very strong foundation. China is already a very successful Olympic partner," he said.

Merlo noted that Beijing have proved they can host successful Olympics, all they need to do is to make a convincing technical offer to win their bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

"It depends on the technical offer. If they are doing a good offer, it is very difficult to lose," he said.

"I think everybody believe that China can deliver a very good winter Olympic games. there is no doubt about this. According to Chinese philosophy of life, if they bid, they bid seriously," he said.

Arat suggested that a competent bid committee aided by international consultants' expertise is fundamental to a successful bid.

"JTA (John Tibbs Associates, an international sports consultancy company) and our other international consultants brought a great deal of experience and insight to our bid. Istanbul has always had a great story, but they gave us a fresh perspective and perhaps helped us find the words to articulate it better than we had done before," he said.

"It doesn't matter where they're from, but you need to have people on board who have lived and breathed the Olympic Movement and who understand the political dynamics," he said.

"Consultants are important, but they can't win you the bid on their own: it is crucial that you have a strong, passionate and talented Bid Committee full of the kind of people the IOC an see themselves working with day in, day out for the next seven years," he said.

Merlo warned that Almaty of Kazakhstan, with the help of international expertise, could be a major rival for Beijing and Zhangjiakou in their bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

"Their bid could be convincing," he said.

Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan's central Asia neighbor, also have their vision fixed on Olympic Games. It was revealed in the sports media forum held in Ashgabat that the gas-rich country is investing approximate five billion U.S. dollars to hold the 2017 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, which they hope could serve as a stepping-stone to hosting Olympic Games in the future.