Ev­ery post, ev­ery piste a win­ner

China Daily (Canada) - - ANALYSIS - By CHEN YINGQUN

Like an ath­lete shoot­ing to in­stant fame af­ter de­feat­ing much more fan­cied ri­vals, the im­pov­er­ished county of Chongli, north­west of Bei­jing, con­tin­ues to revel in shar­ing first place in an Olympic Games com­pe­ti­tion.

That com­pe­ti­tion was for the right to host the Win­ter Olympics in 2022, won by Bei­jing and Zhangji­akou city, but Chongli can bask in the re­flected light of that goldmedal per­for­mance be­cause it will be the main venue for snow com­pe­ti­tion events of the Games.

And just as gold medals can de­liver fi­nan­cial wind­falls to ath­letes, those who live in Chongli county, par­tic­u­larly home­own­ers and real es­tate agents, are al­ready tot­ing up the fi­nan­cial gains the Games will bring them. In Chongli, pop­u­la­tion 125,000, the price of residential prop­er­ties has risen to an av­er­age of 17,000 yuan ($2,670) a square me­ter, dou­ble what they were a year ago.

Of course, there are down­sides to this, too.

“In re­cent weeks the cost of a steamed bun has risen by half a yuan (about 50 per­cent), and pork has risen four to six yuan a kilo­gram (about 30 per­cent), and the prices of many other ev­ery­day items have risen, too,” says Yan Shibin, a taxi driver.

How­ever, the good news for Yan, who says he has been driv­ing taxis for five years, is that since Novem­ber 2013, when Bei­jing an­nounced it was putting in a bid for the Win­ter Olympics, busi­ness has been in­creas­ingly bet­ter in Chongli, and over the past sum­mer, par­tic­u­larly af­ter the an­nounce­ment of the win­ning bid was made, it went through the roof, he says.

Chongli county, about 220 kilo­me­ters north­west of Bei­jing, lies on a long, nar­row strip of land be­tween moun­tain ranges. On the eastern side of the Dong­gou River, which di­vides the county, is an old dis­trict, parts of whose streets are oc­cu­pied by ven­dors and lined with run­down houses and shops strad­dling roads that are in a poor state of re­pair.

On the other side of the river is a much more salu­bri­ous dis­trict, a lot of it built over the past two years, with dwellings and shops that look al­most Euro­pean, and there are mod­ern build­ings that line a spick-and-span street filled with cars bear­ing num­ber plates in­di­cat­ing that they are from Bei­jing, Tian­jin and He­bei province.

Over the past year more than two dozen restau­rants have opened up, and the county now even has a cof­fee shop.

Zhao Qiong, mar­ket­ing d i r e c tor of Gent­ing Re­sort Se­cret Gar­den, a win­ter re­sort lo­cated where Games events will be held, says that since Bei­jing an­nounced its bid for the Olympics about two years ago, the re­sort has re­ceived 20,000 tourists, many of whom have said cu­rios­ity about the Games bid had drawn them there.

Observers say the mood of gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, busi­nesses and tourists seems to have be­come de­cid­edly more up­beat this sum­mer, in and around town.

Although Chongli is not that far from Bei­jing, it has long been one of the poor­est coun­ties in China. The sta­ple crops of lo­cal farm­ers are pota­toes and cab­bages.

How­ever, last year the county fi­nally man­aged to lift it­self off the na­tional list of im­pov­er­ished coun­ties, thanks mainly to win­ter in­dus­tries such as re­sorts and snow sports.

The skiing in­dus­try started a lit­tle less than 20 years ago, with the first big skiing area open­ing in 2003. Last win­ter, more than 2 mil­lion visi­tors, 16 times the pop­u­la­tion, trav­eled to the area to ski. About one-sixth of the pop­u­la­tion is em­ployed in the skiing in­dus­try.

How­ever, Chongli’s in­fra­struc­ture and ser­vices seem to be well short of what the boom­ing tourism and skiing in­dus­tries re­quire, and Yan cites the fact that the county has only about 60 taxis, many of them very run down and shabby.

Zhao of Gent­ing Re­sort Se­cret Gar­den says: “I think the in­flu­ence that the Olympics will have on Chongli has just be­gun to man­i­fest it­self, and this place is go­ing to boom. Over the next few years there are go­ing to be huge changes.” the pop­u­la­tion

of Chongli

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