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Nostalgia heats up with cool celebrations

By SUN XIAOCHEN | China Daily | Updated: 2023-02-06 07:39
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China's gold medal-winning Olympians, members of the organizing committee and former volunteers enjoy reminiscing about the Games during a grand ceremony held at western Beijing's Shougang Industrial Park on Saturday night to mark the one-year anniversary of the start of the event. WEI XIAOHAO/CHINA DAILY

Two new ice rinks built in the venue's underground space opened to the public before the Spring Festival, becoming a hot spot among the city's skating fans.

At an event organized to mark the anniversary on Saturday, China's former women's curling national team captain Wang Bingyu, who served as the sport's program director at Beijing 2022, couldn't hold back her emotions.

"I can't believe how time flies and, suddenly, it's been a year," said Wang, who returned to the center, now dubbed the "Ice Cube", with hundreds of Beijing 2022 staff and volunteers to attend the event.

"Before the Games, our vision of turning a summer sports venue into a curling arena was considered by some as a gamble. Now, we've done more than just that, and we've created a new ice sports paradise for the people in Beijing.

"Watching kids enjoy themselves on the ice and learning the fundamentals of curling at the Olympic venue makes me so proud and emotional, especially today," said Wang.

Launched at Saturday's ceremony, a series of public events, including amateur competitions, Olympic exhibitions and Olympic venue open days, will be rolled out across the country over the next month to maintain the momentum of winter sports boom.

"It feels bigger than just an individual accomplishment to see that winter sports have become a popular way of life in the country, knowing that we did our part in that," said Xu Mengtao, China's freestyle skiing aerials Olympic champion.

"As an athlete, it only fuels my motivation to keep going and win more glory for my country by trying to compete at the next Olympics in Italy," said Xu, a veteran who is targeting a record fifth Winter Olympics at Milano Cortina 2026.

As China ambitiously develops its sports industry as a pillar for its overall economic growth, the potential of winter sports in drawing customers to mountain resorts while stimulating consumption in accommodation, ski training and equipment sales and rental has been tapped, resulting in a skyrocketing number of visitors at major resorts in North China during the holiday season.

According to estimates by the China Tourism Academy, China's winter leisure tourism sector is expected to welcome more than 520 million visitors and earned revenue of more than 720 billion yuan ($107 billion) during the 2024-2025 ice and snow season.

"Beyond staging a spectacular Games, Beijing 2022 was laser focused on delivering lasting social and economic benefits for its residents — in line with Olympic Agenda 2020+5," said Christophe Dubi, IOC's Olympic Games executive director.

"One year on, the most outstanding feature of these Games is the way they touched the lives of millions of local people by making them discover the world of winter sports. The organizers also made sure the Games minimized their impact on the environment making winter sports more sustainable."

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