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Olympic fervor builds as planning comes to fruition

China Daily | Updated: 2022-01-07 09:07
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Workers unload boxes inside the closed loop area designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Olympic Village of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China, January 6, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

Closed-loop system welcomes first arrivals, athletes excited to follow suit

Beijing 2022's "closed-loop management system" began operation on Tuesday as overseas staff started to arrive in the Chinese capital to prepare for the Games.

Anyone traveling into the city for the Games will enter the closed loop, where they will undergo daily testing for COVID-19 and be unable to have physical contact with the outside world for the duration of their time in Beijing.

Meanwhile, the Beijing 2022 organizing committee (BOCOG) has been pressing ahead with final preparations for ceremonies, logistics, registration and marketing.

Due to the pandemic, the torch relay has been scaled down, and will only take place in the three competition areas-downtown Beijing, its northwest Yanqing district and co-host city Zhangjiakou in Hebei province. The relay will take place from Feb 2-4, involving around 1,200 torchbearers.

To ensure that operations at all the Games' 12 competition venues meet Olympic standards, organizers are also busy fine-tuning facilities, organization and services across the three zones based on feedback from a series of international test events staged late last year.

Around 2,900 athletes representing approximately 90 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) will soon descend on Beijing. Many of them have been eager to share their excitement about the upcoming Games.

A medal hopeful for the host nation, freeskier Gu Ailing is looking to carry her red-hot form this season into Beijing 2022.

"I can't wait to participate in the Winter Olympics and I have high expectations for my performance," said Gu, the first woman ever to land a right double cork 1440 in a freeski competition.

Like Gu, British figure skater Natasha McKay will be making her Olympic debut in Beijing. "It has always been a dream of mine and I am so excited that it is now becoming a reality," McKay said.

Her teammate, Lewis Gibson, who will compete in the ice dance at Beijing 2022, is also raring to get his campaign underway.

"I can't wait for the moment when we get to skate in Beijing with the Olympic rings beneath our feet," he said.

Having watched the Olympics for the first time on TV in 2008 when Beijing staged the Summer Games, Australian cross-country skier Seve de Campo is raring to make his Winter Olympic debut.

"It's something that would mean a lot to me personally. I have worked hard for a lot of years," said De Campo.

There is enormous enthusiasm among many veterans, too.

"It's going to be special to get a chance to go back to the Olympics and see what we can do," said American curler John Shuster, who will aim to defend his gold medal from the 2018 Pyeongchang Games in South Korea.

NOC officials expressed their confidence in the successful delivery of the 2022 Winter Olympics.

"China has vast experience in hosting the Olympic Games. You have great facilities, you have experience, you know what to do,"Ukraine's NOC president Sergey Bubka told Xinhua last month, adding that the Olympic Games belong to all of humanity and are above politics, religion and borders.

Grassroots gains

Beyond the 16 days of competition, China continues to forge ahead with its grassroots plan of involving 300 million people in winter sports.

Themed "Winter Olympics Dream for a Shared Future", the 8th National Public Ice and Snow Season opened in Hubei province last month and will continue until April. It was the first time the season's opening ceremony was staged in central China.

Over 1,200 public winter sports activities were organized across the country last year, involving more than 100 million people.

Thanks to Beijing 2022, winter sports have also taken root in warm southern areas such as Guangdong province, as well as the western autonomous regions of Xinjiang and Tibet.

During the last snow season, Xinjiang saw a huge increase in sign-ups to winter sports camps.

"We welcomed around 200 children a day during the past winter vacation, much more than the previous season," said Liu Yanan, manager of Baiyun Ski Resort in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

Ski mountaineering, which has been added to the program of the 2026 Games, has seen rapid development in Tibet.

Cashing in

The International Ski Federation established a new office in China in 2021, and international brands are tapping into the fast-growing Chinese market.

German brand Bogner, a longtime outfitter of Germany's Olympians, announced a joint venture with Chinese apparel group Bosideng last month. The alliance will lead to the opening of 80 stores over the next five years.

Norwegian outdoor clothing brand Helly Hansen and Swedish ski-gear producer Peak Performance also entered the Chinese market last year.

Paolo Bazzoni, chairman of the China-Italy Chamber of Commerce, believes that the boom in winter sports provides opportunities for Italian brands to expand in the Chinese market.

"It is foreseeable that the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics in China and the 2026 Winter Olympics in Italy will deepen the friendly exchanges between the two countries while promoting the development of tourism, education and other industries," Bazzoni said.

TechnoAlpin, headquartered in Bolzano, Italy, is a leading manufacturer of snowmaking equipment with a 60 percent share in the global market. The company has served six of the last eight Winter Olympics and will provide snowmaking equipment and automation systems for Beijing 2022.

"We have benefited enormously from the 2022 Olympic Games," said Pierpaolo Salusso, general manager of TechnoAlpin's Zhangjiakou offshoot.

According to the central government's 10-year winter sports development plan published in 2016, China's winter sports industry is forecast to be worth 1 trillion yuan ($157 billion) by 2025.


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