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Olympic glamor encouraging more people to take up skiing and skating

By Zhang Yu in Shijiazhuang | China Daily | Updated: 2020-01-26 09:00

After standing at the top of a ski slope for more than 10 minutes, Zhang Shan finally got the courage to glide down. It was her first time skiing.

She fell on her back right away, like most of the new learners at the Western Evergreen ski resort in Shijiazhuang, capital city of North China's Hebei province.

If not for the province's other city, Zhangjiakou, which is co-hosting the 2022 Winter Olympic Games with Beijing, she said she might never have touched a ski.

Zhang, 31, is a resident of Shijiazhuang, about 260 kilometers southwest of Beijing and 300 km south of Zhangjiakou. Seeing more people around her start to ski, she decided to have a try.

"You can watch skiing competitions on TV, you can see your friends share their skiing moments on social media and you can hear venues for winter sports are opening. I mean, more winter sports elements are appearing in my life," Zhang said.

Since 2015, when the country won the bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, winter sports like skiing and skating have become more popular.

Genting Resort Secret Garden, a ski venue for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Zhangjiakou's Chongli district, saw 180,000 tourists during the 2018-19 snow season.

It marks an increase of 50 percent year-on-year, said Huang Jing, deputy head of the resort's marketing department.

"The influence of the Winter Olympics is obvious. People want to try the games in person," Huang said.

Yu Xiufeng, deputy general manager of the ski resort in Shijiazhuang, agreed. "Like Zhang, many skiers are new starters, who want to have fun from it," he said.

Since 2015, visitors to its ski resort have increased by about 20 percent year-on-year to 200,000, according to Yu.

The popularity of winter sports is also the result of government efforts. According to the China National Tourism Administration, the country expects 300 million people to get involved in winter sports by 2022.

And Hebei aims to involve 30 million people by that year, as many as 40 percent of its total population, according to Hebei Sports Bureau.

Apart from nurturing more professional athletes, Hebei is striving to popularize winter sports among the public.

In the snow season of 2018-19, usually November to March, more than 13 million people in the province participated in winter sports. This increased 51.77 percent year-on-year, according to Tang Qing, deputy head of Hebei Sports Bureau.

Among them, about 4 million were directly involved; 3 million skiers and 1 million skaters, said Tang. The total number will reach 17 million in this snow season.

In the last snow season, more than 291 winter sports activities were organized in the province. This included ski competitions and experiencing events for the public.

Regarding facilities, Hebei had 40 ski resorts and 104 skating rinks during last snow season. This increased by three and 67, respectively, from the previous season, Tang added.

More than 4 million primary and middle-school students have participated in or experienced winter sports through competitions or games in an effort to promote winter sports in schools.

"But we still have a long way to go to reach the goal of involving 30 million people in winter sports and still face the lack of facilities and teaching resources," Tang said. He added that the province aims to have more than 200 indoor public skating rinks and 80 ski resorts by the end of this year.

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