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Olympics warms up cold sports

By Sun Xiaochen and Shi Futian | China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-28 07:49

Son of former IOC chief advises Chinese people to seize moment

With the Winter Olympics high on China's sports agenda through 2022, a vice-president of the International Olympic Committee urged the country to use its momentum to boost winter sports participation.

As China revs up its preparations for competing at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics and hosting the Beijing edition of the Games in 2022, Juan Antonio Samaranch, son of former IOC chief Juan Antonio Samaranch, encouraged the Chinese public to embrace the opportunity to watch, learn and play winter sports more.

"You will have the best winter sports action in the world at your doorstep... so you have to take advantage of that," Samaranch said in Beijing on Saturday.

"Winter is here, so go out and select which winter sports you like the most. Tomorrow is Sunday. No class. Go and have it! It's a lot of fun!"

Samaranch made the remarks during the 2017 Beijing Winter Olympics Forum held at Renmin University of China, where IOC representatives, Beijing 2022 organizers and scholars discussed education and promotion of winter sports in China.

Olympics warms up cold sports

The 2018 Winter Olympics will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, from Feb 9 to 25. The next edition of the quadrennial event after that takes place in Beijing in February 2022. Beijing will become the first city in the world to host both the Summer (2008) and Winter Olympics.

With the Winter Olympics being staged in a neighboring country and then at home back-to-back, China has been pulling out all the stops to raise the profile of winter sports from niche to mainstream status.

With funding from the government and private sector, it plans to build 650 skating rinks and 800 ski resorts by 2022, laying the foundation for 300 million people to be involved in winter sports by 2022 and for businesses to generate aggregate revenues of 1 trillion yuan ($151 billion) by 2025 from spending at venues, and on equipment production and training fees. However, reality suggests that more should be done to fulfill the ambition.

According to a survey released at the forum on Saturday, only about 12 percent of the Chinese public regularly participates in winter sports, and only 8 percent routinely watch winter sports competitions.

The survey, conducted by the Humanistic Olympic Studies Center affiliated with Renmin University, was based on interviews with 12,000 respondents.

The survey also found that 58 percent of the public has never tried any form of winter sport due to the lack of facilities and knowledge.

"Real interest from the public in winter sports needs to be further cultivated to maintain attention on them," said Li Shuwang, executive director of the research center.

According to the Beijing Municipal Education Commission, the city selected 52 schools in the fall semester for a pilot program to offer winter sports training at local rinks and resorts as part of a national plan to expand a similar program to 2,000 schools by 2022.

With public passion for winter sports fueled by upgrades to facilities and services, Guo Dandan, a retired freestyle skier, doesn't expect a repeat of the embarrassing moment that she experienced after winning the country's first world title in freestyle aerials in Australia in 1997.

"After I won the championship, the award ceremony was postponed to borrow a Chinese national flag from the embassy, as the organizers didn't expect a Chinese skier would win," said Guo, who retired in 2001. "Now with our country becoming a rising winter sports power, the future is much brighter."

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