Thanks to Winter Olympics, China’s ice and snow industry takes off

2022-February-7 16:08 By: GMW.c

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics has given the country’s ice and snow sports industry a massive boost. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, a record 346 million Chinese people are now taking part in winter sports.

When Beijing won the bid in 2015 to host the Games, nearly a third of the winter sports that spectators will see in action at the Games hadn’t yet appeared in the country, and talents including athletes, coaches and referees were in great shortage. China then began to introduce a series of policies to boost winter sports products and services and attract more fans.

Since 2017, the General Administration of Sports of China has been selecting athletes from summer sports teams, and has trained over 2,000 domestic technical officials as well as a large number of ice and ski technicians.

Meanwhile, the sports and education departments have been promoting winter sports in schools. Thousands of schools in hundreds of cities now run winter sports courses including ice hockey, and have established winter sports student teams.

Zhang Qiangqiang, 5, has been taking a skiing class for the last two years. He can now ski on professional slopes. “I want to ski as well as Bing Dwen Dwen,” he said. Bing Dwen Dwen, a panda wearing a full-body shell of ice, is the mascot of the 2022 Winter Olympics. "Before Beijing’s successful bid, ice and snow sports were a niche sport with few professionals. It's now easier for people to find jobs in this field, and the kids are getting into it,” said Wang Chunlu, dean of the China Ice Hockey Academy of Beijing Sport University.

The popularity of winter sports is now on the up. In Beijing, citizens skate or drive ice vehicles on Kunming Lake. In Inner Mongolia, various public winter sports games including skating, skiing and snow football are being held. Even in warm southern cities such as Guangzhou, ice and snow festivals are in full swing. In Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region, the Altay prefecture attracts numerous winter sports enthusiasts and tourists each winter. The sports here vary from ice fishing to cross-country skiing. People can also ski on ancient fur skis, made of pinewood and horsehide, which the area’s inhabitants have used as a means of getting around for literally thousands of years.

By October 2021, for every four people living in China, one was taking part in snow and ice sports, with the National Bureau of Statistics chalking up an official participation rate of 24%. The Olympics venues are all slated to serve citizens after the Games. For example, ice and snow venues will be open to the public for free or at a low cost. Cultural and leisure activities will also be held in these venues, according to a spokesman from the General Administration of Sports of China.

“The Winter Olympics have thrust winter sports into the limelight. But, if the ice and snow industry are going to develop sustainably, we need public participation,” said Wang Xueli, director of Tsinghua University’s Center for the Development of the Sports Industry.

The winter sports industry in China now faces unprecedented opportunities. As of early 2021, China boasted 654 standard skating rinks, a surge of 317% over 2015, and 803 indoor and outdoor ski resorts, up 41% from 2015.

China’s ice and snow sports industry development report released in 2021 reveals that the total size of the industry grew from 270 billion yuan to 600 billion yuan between 2015 and 2020. The development of the industry has also created a slew of job opportunities. In Laiyuan county in Hebei province near Beijing, a villager who had been working in the mine for years found a new job at a local ski resort and now earns more than 7,000 yuan a month. The improvement of people’s living standards echoes President Xi Jinping’s remarks that “ice and snow are as valuable as gold and silver.”

According to China's winter sports development plan, the total scale of the ice and snow sports industry will top 1 trillion yuan by 2025.

Contributed by Liu Kun, Shang Wenchao and Zhang Sheng, Guangming Daily

Translated by by Huang Siyi, Shanghai International Studies University

Editor: WXY
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