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Beijing 2022 brings new life to old 'Steel City'

By Zhou Jie/Ji Ye/Zhang Han/Shen Nan/Ding Wenxian/Xiao Shiyao/Wang Yong/Li Bowen | China Daily | Updated: 2019-01-17 07:36
Trains carry steel to the mills of Shougang Group in Beijing's Shijingshan district in 2010. [Photo/Xinhua]

A new landmark

The relocation of Shougang has been a catalyst for Caofeidian, which is developing into a 21st century town, but it left huge industrial relics in the capital.

"At the time, many industry experts gave us advice on how to use the land. At first sight, I have to say that their ideas seemed well-planned. But on second thoughts, we realized that we would have to be careful about how we revamped this precious area," Liang said.

Beijing's city planners chose not to bulldoze the industrial park, instead they took on the difficult but rewarding task of urban regeneration.

They were waiting for the perfect time to get to work.

Ai and his young colleague Li Hongji did not have to wait. Ai chose to work in Caofeidian, while Li decided to stay in the Shougang area, guarding the equipment in the old plants. In 2015, Li joined the security detail at the site, taking care of high-end property projects in the silos.

As was the case with Shougang, everything changed for Li very quickly. He swapped his flame-retardant protective clothing for a suit, his sledgehammer became a walkie-talkie, and he had to learn how to wear a tie. Feeling uncomfortable, he was ready to resign.

"As a furnace operator, I never wore a tie, and I seldom wore a white shirt." Li had to search online to learn how to knot a tie. "It took me a week to become familiar with it," he said. On July 31, 2015, less than a month after Li took up his new position in the security detail, Beijing was awarded the 2022 Winter Olympics, which gave Shougang new possibilities.

"After the successful bid for the Winter Olympics, our group's management was thinking about whether Shougang could have a rebirth through the Games," Liang said. "We submitted a report to the Beijing government, which finally decided to base the headquarters of the Beijing 2022 Organizing Committee in Shougang Industrial Park."

The decision encouraged Li to stay. On the eve of the 2016 Chinese New Year, he received news that the Winter Olympics Organizing Committee was about to move in. "I was excited by the change," he said.

A year later, the national ice sports team chose to base its training camp in the park in four new venues commonly known as the "four ice rinks", all converted from old plants. The clean coal workshop was converted into a base for short track speedskating, figure skating, and training camps for curling. The coal station was transformed into a hockey arena.

Liu Boqiang, a welder was shocked by the changes.

"One day, my supervisor asked whether I was interested in learning how to make and sweep ice. I asked if it was to make ice cubes," he said.

In the summer of 2017, the 41-year-old spent three months learning about ice-surfacing in the Capital Gymnasium, the winter sports center in Beijing. He found the new job interesting.

"It was beyond my expectations. During the 2008 Olympic Games, I was a spectator. Ten years later, I could be part of the staff participating in the Winter Olympics, helping Chinese skaters prepare for the Games," he said. "The Winter Olympics renewed my hope. The surfacing of the ice rink will lead the second half of my life."

In addition to skating, the Shougang park will witness the first Olympic snow sports competition to be held in a city center. On the shores of Qunming Lake, a platform backed by three huge cooling towers will rise into the sky, forming a new landmark. During the Beijing 2022 Big Air competition, the world's finest snowboarders will fly down the ramps after pushing off from the side of the old 70-meter-plus cooling towers in the heart of the former industrial district.

As part of the mission to use the Games to introduce 300 million Chinese to winter sports, there are plans for further sports facilities among Shougang's 100-plus smokestacks. Additional plans for the district, which is a pilot project for the reformation of antiquated industrial zones nationwide, will include offices, a museum, a conference center, an innovation business complex, a water park and a waterfront music stage.

On June 5, Shougang Group officially became a cooperative partner of the official urban renewal service of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games and Winter Paralympic Games.

Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, called the reuse of the industrial heritage "amazing". During the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea, he said Beijing set a new benchmark for a sustainable Olympic Games, one that is in line with the IOC's affordable, beneficial and sustainable new normal for the hosting of future Games.

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