Icy Sports En Vogue
With the Winter Olympics baton being passed to Beijing, Chinese people’s enthusiasm for ice and snow sports has been further stimulated.
When the curtain fell on the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, the baton was passed to Beijing. China set a goal of attracting 300 million participants to ice and snow sports in its bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics. After a boost in resorts and facilities for skating and skiing, public enthusiasm for ice and snow sports has exploded. Winter sports venues have now become hot during the cold months.
Skating Becomes a New Fashion
In the northeastern Chinese city of Changchun, Jilin Province, the local winter is known for “thousands of miles of ice and snow in the Northland.” One of the most popular winter activities in the region now is snowboarding down ski runs through pristine forests.
“Since it opened in 2012, the visitor volume of our ski resort has increased by 50 percent year-on-year. Skiing, once an elite tourist activity, has become a part of life for many local people,” notes Chen Yafeng, general manager of the Miaoxiang Mountain Ski Resort in Jiutai District, Changchun.
A decade ago, a handful of novices falling down were the only people found at the ski resort, but today skilled amateurs equipped with the most expensive equipment available are commonplace.
Ten-year-old Ma Heze from Jiutai District is a VIP member of the ski resort after four years of skiing and snowboarding experience. “It’s so fun to take my snowboard down the advanced ski runs,” he grins. “Many of my classmates also come here to ski.” Schools in northeastern China usually close for about two months during winter vacation, and Ma Heze spent nearly half that time at the ski resort.
To meet the increasing demands of skiers, many resorts now offer night skiing. “Every day after work, I drive here with my friends and spend two hours skiing,” says Li Hongbao, a 39-year-old regular. “It is really exciting and quite addictive.”
After Beijing’s successful bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics, the ski competition venue in Chongli County, over 200 kilometers away from Beijing, in Hebei Province, has become a favorite destination for
Chinese skiers. By early 2017, there were 34 ski resorts in Hebei Province, covering a total of more than 230 million square meters. Most of these resorts are located in Chongli.
Ski camps have been the flagship winter activity of Men’s Club, a training institution in Beijing specializing in cultivating boys’ interests in sports. Every winter, the club organizes winter camps in Chongli for boy skiers from 6 to 12 years old.
“Although many training institutions are offering ski camps this year, our ski camps still fill up,” beams Zhao Xiaohua, a teacher and recruiter for Men’s Club. With major ski resorts in Chongli getting increasingly popular, overcrowding has become the norm, making it more difficult to book rooms at local hotels during the busy season. As a result, operators of the ski resorts have become reluctant to work with outside business partners. Figure Skating: From Professional to Mainstream
With the popularity of ice and snow sports, some sports once only accessible to the elite are now widely popular with people from all walks of life.
Zhao Yang, a 43-year-old retired figure skater who was formerly a member of the Jilin provincial skating team, is now a coach at Beijing Century Star Skating Club. Under the guidance of Zhao, Chen Hongyi, a trainee in the club, is hoping to one day make the Olympics.
Beijing Century Star Skating Club, located in the Capital Stadium, was China’s first skating club. Its founder won several national championships in figure skating. Presently, Zhao Yang teaches more than 30 students from age three to over forty in the club.
Although most of his students are amateurs, some have skill on par with top-level professionals. For example, Chen Hongyi won a national championship in a junior race. The 16-year-old girl is tall and slim and shows outstanding technique after eight years of coaching by Zhao. In China, skaters of her caliber are usually professional athletes in provincial or municipal teams, but Chen is determined to complete school and keep training on the side. Despite the long hours she devotes to the ice rink, she still ranks in the top 10 of her class in academics.
With Chen’s steady improvement, Zhao Yang is hopeful that she will make her way to the 2022 Winter Olympics. “Since Beijing won the bid for the Winter Olympics, more and more children are now learning to skate, and the government has strengthened its support for ice and snow sports,” says Zhao. “In honor of Chen’s good performance in professional events, the club has reduced her training tuition and waived entry fees for the games— good news for her family. We hope she will take this opportunity to continue her progress and eventually qualify for the 2022 Winter Olympics.”
“I’m particularly happy to see these children acquire essential techniques little by little and apply what they learn here in competitions,” continues Zhao. “Coaching is completely different from being an athlete. Unlike my generation, nowadays children all like skating, and young students show more enthusiasm and savvy than in days past.”
Campus Ice and Snow Program
“By 2020, the total size of China’s winter sports industry will reach 600 billion yuan,” estimated Li Yingchuan, assistant director-general
of the General Administration of Sport, in his opening remarks at the 2017 World Winter Sports Exposition (WWSE). “By 2025 it will reach 1 trillion yuan.”
In 2016, China’s General Administration of Sport issued the Ice and Snow Sports Development Plan (2016-2025). According to the plan, a “Campus Ice and Snow Program” is to be organized to support teaching winter sports involving the following tasks: complete the compilation of the Guide to Ice and
Snow Sports Campus Teaching in 2018, complete training of 5,000 full-time or part-time teachers for ice and snow sports by 2020, and increase the number of primary and secondary schools featuring ice and snow sports programs nationwide to 2,000 by 2020 and 5,000 by 2025.
Thanks to the impetus of such national policies, the municipal government of Beijing issued a plan in June 2017 to “promote and popularize winter sports in Beijing primary and secondary schools by 2025,” which will be fully carried out across the 16 districts and counties of the capital city. A series of winter sport activities, including inline skating, floor hockey, curling and other ice and snow activities, will be introduced into campus. Additionally, students will attend lectures from Olympic champions and view exhibitions on the Winter Olympics. A total of 52 schools offering ice and snow sports programs have been authorized by the municipal government of Beijing. According to authorities, the number of schools characterized by ice and snow sports in Beijing will reach 100 by 2020.
Chen Liren, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and president of the Competitive Sports School Affiliated to Beijing Sports University, once said at a CPPCC meeting: “The cultivation of sport habits among teenagers will increase overall consumption of sport activities, while sporting events will enhance public interest in sports.”
When the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics arrive, the time will come for young athletes now skiing and skating through the snow and ice this winter to prove themselves in the international arena. We are looking forward to 300 million Chinese winter sports lovers cheering for them.
Figure skating coach Zhao Yang teaches primary-school students. by Feng Jin
February 2017: A coach instructs children at a ski camp held by Men’s Club in Chongli County, Hebei Province. courtesy of Men’s Club