Later this month, theXin­jiang 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 Bei­jingWin­ter Olympics, as SunXiaochen

China Daily (Canada) - - XINJIANG -

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, speed­skat­ing and hockey over a 11-day pe­riod.

De­spite never hav­ing staged a na­tion­alscale sport­ing event be­fore, Xin­jiang’s po­ten­tial as a host was ob­vi­ous. Its ad­van­tages in­clude 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.

The re­gional au­thor­i­ties have at­tached great im­por­tance to the prepara­tory work. They 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 ofXin­jiang.

“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, world­class ice sports cen­ter in a south­west­ern sub­urb ofUrumqi­will be thev­enue­for all the icere­lated ac­tion, in­clud­ing speed and fig­ure skat­ing, curl­ing and hockey, while snow­based events will be staged at two ex­ist­ing re­sorts on the out­skirts of the city that have been fully re­fur­bished for the event.

A fru­gal fis­cal ap­proach and a trimmed op­er­a­tional­bud­get re­sulted inasav­ing of340 mil­lion yuan ($52 mil­lion) from the ini­tial cost pro­jec­tions, said Li Guang­ming, deputy sec­re­tary-gen­eral of the or­ga­niz­ing com­mit­tee, who­didn’t re­veal the ini­tial cost es­ti­mate.

Mea­sures to cut ex­pen­di­tures in­cluded stag­ing curl­ing events at an an­cil­lary rink at the fig­ure skat­ing venue rather than build­ing a new cen­ter, and mov­ing the open­ing cer­e­mony from a gi­ant out­door sta­dium, which would have re­quired costly re­fur­bish­ment, to a smaller speed skat­ing oval.

“Un­der plans drafted for post-event oper­a­tions, the new ice sports cen­ter will be trans­formed into a fixed train­ing base for na­tional an­dre­gion­al­team­san­dan­recre­ational win­ter sports cen­ter for lo­cal stu­dents,” Li said.

All the pro­posed venues and teams of staff mem­bers have par­tic­i­pated in warmup events, in­clud­ing the na­tional curl­ing cham­pi­onships and a na­tional Alpine ski­ing tour­na­ment last year. A multi-eth­nic team of 1,400 vol­un­teers has been trained to work at the games.

Urumqi has also an­nounced a se­ries of mea­sures to in­volve lo­cal res­i­dents in the games, such as the lo­cal gov­ern­ment and ski re­sorts do­nat­ing 50,000 free tick­ets to com­mu­ni­ties and pro­vid­ing free park­ing lots at ma­jor venues, such as the Silk Road Ski Re­sort.

Award­ing Xin­jiang the rights to host the qua­dren­nial sport­ing gala echoed the coun­try’s am­bi­tion to en­cour­age 300 mil­lion peo­ple in North China to par­tic­i­pate in win­ter sports and recre­ations while preparing for the 2022 Beijing Win­ter Olympic Games, said Liu Peng, China’s sports min­is­ter.

“En­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to par­tic­i­pate in win­ter sports out­side the tra­di­tional north­east­ern prov­inces high­lights Beijing’s suc­cess­ful bid for the 2022 Win­ter Olympics. Bring­ing this na­tional event to the north­west­ern part of the coun­try is a sound move to­ward im­ple­ment­ing the plan,” Liu said.

In July, Beijing and co-host Zhangjiakou, a city in He­bei prov­ince, were awarded the rights to host the 2022 Win­ter Games. The an­nounce­ment echoed a grow­ing na­tion­wide pas­sion for skat­ing and ski­ing.

Ski re­sorts have been ben­e­fit­ing from the surge in par­tic­i­pant num­bers, and not just in ar­eas close to the Chi­nese cap­i­tal but also in re­mote re­gions such as Xin­jiang, where ski­ing has long been a cru­cial part of no­madic life.

In 2014, the Silk Road Ski Re­sort, in a southern sub­urb of Urumqi, turned its first profit in 11 years as an­nual vis­i­tor num­bers rose by 87 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to Li Jian­hong, the man­ag­ing di­rec­tor.

“Thanks to the pro­mo­tion of win­ter sports by the suc­cess­ful Olympics bid and the Na­tional Win­ter Games, I be­lieve the fu­ture ofmy busi­ness will be pros­per­ous,” he said.

In 2006, ar­chae­ol­o­gists in Al­tay, an eth­nic pre­fec­ture in north­ern Xin­jiang, dis­cov­ered rock paint­ings of “skiers” from the late Pa­le­olithic era, around 12,000 years ago. The paint­ings, de­pict­ing hun­ters “ski­ing” on long rec­tan­gu­lar boards with poles in their hands, are cited as ev­i­dence that Al­tay was prob­a­bly the birth­place of ski­ing in China.

“From a tra­di­tional way of life to a mod­ern sport­ing fash­ion, win­ter sports are see­ing a new­dawn in Xin­jiang,” Li said.

Con­tact the writer at sunxiaochen@ chi­


A de­sign sketch of the medals for the 13th Na­tional Win­ter Games.


Has been saved fromthe ini­tial cost pro­jec­tions of the 13th Na­tion­alWin­ter Games due to a fru­gal fis­cal ap­proach

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