China / Society

Xinjiang keen to showcase high ambitions

By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily) Updated: 2016-01-07 08:27

 Xinjiang keen to showcase high ambitions

People from the Mongolian and Kazak ethnic groups play a traditional hunting game to welcome the new year on Jan 1 in the snowfields of the Kanas Lake scenic area in Altay, the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. Zhao Ge / Xinhua

Later this month, the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region will host China's largest winter sports event, in a move designed to boost the popularity of skiing and ice skating across the country in preparation for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, as Sun Xiaochen reports.

Boasting ideal natural conditions and a welter of preparations, the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region is gearing up to host the 13th National Winter Games, and help to promote winter sports across the country.

Once an obscure spot on China's sporting map, Xinjiang has risen rapidly as a destination for winter sports competitions and related activities. That rise was reflected when Urumqi, the regional capital, was chosen as the venue for the National Winter Games, which will run from Jan 20 to 30.

It will be the first time since the winter sports gala was introduced in 1959 that it will have been held outside the northeastern provinces of Heilongjiang and Jilin, where the frigid climate means winter sports have traditionally enjoyed huge popularity.

The Xinjiang event will see 54 provincial and municipal teams compete for 97 gold medals in 11 multi-disciplinary sports, including alpine skiing, speed skating and hockey over a 12-day period.

Despite never having staged a national-scale sporting event before, Xinjiang's potential as a host was obvious. Its advantages lay in favorable natural conditions, highlighted by abundant snowfall in moderately cold temperatures, a long tradition of sports that's deeply embedded in local culture, the rugged terrain and the full support of the local government.

Xinjiang keen to showcase high ambitions

The regional authorities have attached great importance to the preparatory work and are confident of successfully hosting the event, and promoting the image of the remote region at the same time, according to Zhang Chunxian, the Party chief of Xinjiang.

"The games provide a window for better understanding of Xinjiang's ethnic traditions, natural landscape and modern social development. We should seize the opportunity to promote the region while demonstrating the growing participation in winter sports here," Zhang said.

Funded by the government, a new, world-class ice sports center in a southwestern suburb of Urumqi will be the venue for all the ice-related action, including speed and figure skating, curling and hockey, while snow-based events will be staged at two existing resorts on the outskirts of the city that have been fully refurbished for the event.

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