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New Beijing hub focuses energies in winter boom

International Ski Federation office boosts thriving snow sports sector

By SUN XIAOCHEN | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2021-10-01 07:11
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The National Ski Jumping Center in Zhangjiakou City, locally known as the "Snow Ruyi", will host the ski jumping and Nordic combined events during the Beijing Winter Games. [Photo/Xinhua]

With a local office spearheading its efforts to tap into the potential of snow sports in China, the International Ski Federation envisages an exciting future for winter sports across the nation far beyond 2022.

As a beginner in most snow-based winter sports, China's potential in developing skiing and snowboarding disciplines at both the amateur and elite levels has been billed as a game-changer by the sector in the buildup to next year's Beijing Winter Olympics.

Initiated by newly elected president Johan Eliasch, the FIS recently opened a liaison office in Beijing in conjunction with the General Administration of Sport of China as a hub to facilitate the country's ambition of promoting winter sports among 300 million people leading up to Beijing 2022 and beyond.

As the first overseas branch of the Swiss-based FIS, the Beijing office will provide technical, organizational and educational support, and play a key role in localizing its programs in the untapped market, Eliasch reckons.

"This office is a big building block in our aspiration to strengthen the ambition of engaging 300 million people in ice and snow sports," Eliasch said during a conference call to launch the office on Tuesday.

"The office will serve as a hub to channel our efforts in China and accelerate the implementation of FIS-China working group projects. It will help activate support in a direct and efficient way."

The country's winter sports administrative center, a division of the GASC, is pinning high hopes on the cooperation with the FIS to bring snow events into the nation's sports mainstream.

"The opening creates an effective platform and enhances our communication with the FIS. It also is an embodiment of Beijing's focus on collaborating with the international community," said the center's director, Ni Huizhong.

Located near the headquarters of the Beijing 2022 organizing committee in the capital's western downtown area, the office building combines a traditional Chinese quadrangle courtyard style and modern design across an area of 400 square meters.

It will play host to the FIS-China working group, established last month and led by FIS Council member Zheng Liangcheng, to promote recreational and professional snow sports in China.

With about four months to go before the 2022 Winter Olympics open in Beijing on Feb 4, anticipation levels for the Games are growing as organizers refine snow slopes, sliding tracks and ice rinks to present the best possible conditions for the world's elite winter athletes.

A series of international test events, including FIS World Cup legs for snowboarding and freestyle ski and Continental Cup stops for ski jumping and Nordic combined, will take place in Beijing's co-host Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, where the majority of the Olympics' snow sports will be staged.

These test events will open the Olympic venues and training facilities for the first time to overseas athletes and technical delegates since the COVID-19 pandemic started at the end of 2019, and will offer invaluable feedback for Chinese organizers and the FIS to fine-tune operations and pandemic control protocols.

"Even with the challenges posed by the pandemic, the preparations are going according to plan," Eliasch told China Central Television.

"The only area that impacted us were the test events ... but our technical officials are very positive about the infrastructure and the courses."

The Beijing Winter Olympics will run through Feb 20 in three zones-downtown Beijing, its northwest Yanqing district and Zhangjiakou's mountainous Chongli district. The Paralympic Winter Games will follow from March 4-13.

According to the GASC, a total of 803 ski resorts had been built by the beginning of this year, up 41 percent from 2015 when Beijing won the right to host the 2022 Games.

The GASC estimates that will pave the way for the market value of winter sports to reach a national target of 1 trillion yuan ($155 billion) by 2025.

The lack of training expertise, resort management know-how and high-end manufacturing in China's fast-growing market is opening up business opportunities that are exciting international investors and companies.

"When it comes to snow sports, China has so much potential to make an impact on the recreational and professional sports landscape and the potential to bring the sports to the next level," said Eliasch.

"The increasing amount of ski resorts in the country shows the immense interest in winter sports and the growing enthusiasm from people to not only watch some disciplines on television, or live on site, but try themselves.

"A country with the ambition to bring 300 million people to our sport is a testament to its long-term vision and an amazing opportunity. It is an opportunity that the FIS is very pleased to support."


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