Freeze-frames of growing ex­cite­ment

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - Front Page - By SUN XIAOCHEN in Shang­hai sunx­i­[email protected]­

Even with­out the chills, there are more than enough thrills and spills in win­ter sports to cap­ti­vate China’s warm south as the na­tion’s an­nual mass ice and snow car­ni­val ex­pands its reach.

With the 2022 Bei­jing Win­ter Olympics loom­ing, in­ter­est in win­ter sports has bro­ken cli­matic and ge­o­graph­i­cal bound­aries in the world’s most pop­u­lous na­tion.

The fes­tiv­i­ties are help­ing push that ex­pan­sion to un­tapped mar­kets with Thurs­day’s launch in Shang­hai of a four-month cam­paign that will fea­ture pro­mo­tional events and am­a­teur com­pe­ti­tions.

The an­nual mass cel­e­bra­tion was ini­ti­ated by the Na­tional Win­ter Sports Ad­min­is­tra­tive Cen­ter and lo­cal sports bu­reaus in 2014 to sup­port Bei­jing’s bid with co-host Zhangji­akou, He­bei prov­ince, for the 2022 Games.

This year’s high­light is an ice and snow “open class” pro­gram that will run at about 100 skat­ing rinks and ski re­sorts — many of them in south­ern and south­west­ern China — where cit­i­zens of all ages can learn en­try-level skills from ex­pe­ri­enced in­struc­tors through March.

The in­au­gu­ral China Ice and Snow Sports Con­ven­tion, which will be held at the Bei­jing Ex­hi­bi­tion Cen­ter from Dec 22-24, will put the lat­est tech­nolo­gies for all-season win­ter sports train­ing on dis­play in an im­mer­sive set-up to in­trigue the pub­lic with equip­ment such as VR skiing sim­u­la­tors, dry-snow cour­ses and portable ar­ti­fi­cial ice rinks.

Thurs­day’s launch cer­e­mony will be a sell­ing point of its own as orga- niz­ers have in­vited all of China’s win­ter sports stars, ac­tive and re­tired, to join cen­tral gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials, per­form­ers and am­a­teur en­thu­si­asts at the 15,000-seat main sta­dium of Shang­hai’s Ori­en­tal Sports Cen­ter, where a 70-me­ter­long ski ramp and a 2,800 sqm ice rink will be built on stage.

“To open this year’s events in Shang­hai, a me­trop­o­lis renowned for host­ing all kinds of sum­mer sports, will send a strong mes­sage that win­ter sports are not just con­fined in the north­ern part of the coun­try,” said Ding Dong, a deputy di­rec­tor of the win­ter sports ad­min­is­tra­tive cen­ter.

“To bring the ex­cite­ment of win­ter sports across the coun­try lead­ing up to the 2022 Win­ter Olympics is a ma­jor mis­sion as im­por­tant as prepar­ing our elite ath­letes for the Games.

“The mass ice and snow season will strive to ful­fill that mis­sion by get­ting more fa­cil­i­ties, mem­bers of the pub­lic and in­vestors in south­ern China in­volved in leisure ac­tiv­i­ties, train­ing and grass­roots com­pe­ti­tion.”

As a na­tional goal set by the cen­tral gov­ern­ment, China aims to in­volve 300 mil­lion peo­ple in win­ter sports ac­tiv­i­ties in the buildup to 2022 and is rolling out a plan to build at least 650 rinks and 800 ski re­sorts to fa­cil­i­tate the de­mand.

The win­ter sports sec­tor is ex­pected to gen­er­ate in­dus­try value of 1 tril­lion yuan ($144 bil­lion) from venue rev­enues, equip­ment pro­duc­tion and train­ing fees by 2025, ac­cord­ing to a na­tional win­ter sports de­vel­op­ment plan.

Shang­hai, host of an an­nual For­mula 1 race, ATP Ten­nis Mas­ters and NBA pre­sea­son games, is gear­ing up for more win­ter sports ex­cite­ment.

The city now runs 15 pub­lic and pri­vate rinks and six in­door skiing cen­ters, which served more than 350,000 vis­i­tors in the 2017-18 win­ter season, ac­cord­ing to Shang­hai Mu­nic­i­pal Sports Bureau.

Shang­hai also be­came the first city in China to host the world cham­pi­onships in both short-track speed­skat­ing (2012) and fig­ure skat­ing (2015), and the first pi­lot cen­ter to ac­com­mo­date and train sum­mer ath­letes who are tran­si­tion­ing to win­ter events.

“The ex­pan­sion of win­ter sports has brought more fun to the mild win­ter in Shang­hai,” said Xu Bin, di­rec­tor of the bureau.

“The fu­ture holds a great po­ten­tial in a lot of warmer re­gions like Shang­hai to em­brace win­ter sports in all pos­si­ble ways.”

The city has set a goal to run 50 skat­ing and skiing fa­cil­i­ties while in­tro­duc­ing win­ter sports train­ing to phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion classes in 500 schools from the cur­rent 70 by the end of 2025, said Xu.

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