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Winter sports in the limelight as firms anticipate huge growth opportunities

By Liu Zhihua | China Daily | Updated: 2020-09-22 10:17
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Visitors participate in a curling event at CIFTIS on Sept 5. [Photo by Zhang Wei/China Daily]

As the Beijing 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games approach, and with Chinese authorities' efforts to revive the sports industry after COVID-19 epidemic, companies both at home and abroad are zeroing in on China's fast-growing sports sector and expect to cash in on huge business opportunities ahead.

The latest reflection of their enthusiasm was a showcasing of products and services using high technologies such as artificial intelligence, 5G and virtual reality during the recently concluded 2020 China International Fair for Trade in Services.

As one of the eight exhibition areas of CIFTIS, the sports services exhibition attracted guests and merchants from more than 40 countries and regions and more than 100 Chinese and foreign sports service institutions, said Xinhua News Agency.

Compared with previous years, this year's exhibitors paid more attention to the integration of sports with science and technology, and many of them had set up their own digital technology teams to explore information products.

Zhang Jiandong, vice-mayor of Beijing and executive vice-president of the Beijing 2022 Organizing Committee, said at the fair that the sports industry is becoming a new growth impetus for the Chinese economy, especially as the industry embraces new forms of business including high-tech, digital and smart services, with Chinese people's demand for physical fitness growing and supply-side reforms deepening.

China Competitor, a Beijing-based company focusing on sports nutrition, participated in the fair with its "smart restaurants" for athletes.

Featuring facial recognition, dish recognition, nutrition computing and self-service dining, the smart restaurants are combinations of sports and technology, equipped with a reasonable diet and nutrition management system for athletes, said Fan Yichen, a company salesperson.

The system effectively combines sports nutrition, sports training, functional monitoring, weight control and other sports science facets, as well as information technologies such as image and face recognition, the internet of things communication, cloud computing, big data and intelligent hardware, Fan said.

"Combined with special considerations for athletes including their training load and other personalized factors, it can achieve scientific catering and achieve a merger of sports nutrition management and training content," Fan added.

Moreover, about 500 brands from more than 20 countries and regions were attracted to the World Winter Sports Expo affiliated with the fair, among which about 60 percent of the brands exhibited were foreign.

The expo specially set up exhibition areas for ice and snow sports-related technologies as well as high-tech products used in Winter Olympics events, aiming to highlight the role of scientific and technological innovations in facilitating the development of China's ice and snow industry amid preparations for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

The application of science and technology in ice and snow sports has broken new ground in popularizing winter sports, creating more possibilities for the development of ice and snow sports, industry experts said.

Gao Yunchao, deputy general-secretary of the Beijing Olympic City Development Association, said at the expo that the power of science and technology on display had made the expo more colorful, and will also bring new opportunities to the ice and snow industry.

For example, Austrian exhibitors showcased at the event many advanced outdoor ski resort facilities, ski equipment, ice-making devices and related technologies.

One special exhibit was a movable and foldable skiing simulator that allows users to learn basic skiing skills through the equipment without having to hit the hills.

Li Yingchuan, deputy head of the General Administration of Sport of China, said at the expo that China's winter sports market is expected to reach 800 billion yuan ($117 billion) by 2022 and 1 trillion yuan by 2025.

The Chinese government has attached great importance to the development of the winter sports industry. The total number of venues for winter sports has risen steadily in the country, with a wider cross-section of participants willing to participate in the events, Li said.

Although the COVID-19 outbreak had huge negative effects on the global economy and China's winter sports industry as well, the country has rolled out a series of supportive policies to help businesses recover and further stimulate sports-related consumption including tax cuts, a delay in social insurance payments and lower loan interest rates.

Xinhua contributed to the story.

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