Legacies of Winter Olympics drive sports boom in China

Most of the official Beijing 2022 competition venues have become popular destinations for the first-class services and events they offer.


Snow is being enjoyed in many areas of China this winter. WANG JIANG/CAI ZENGLE/FOR CHINA DAILY

January 19, 2023

BEIJING – Organizers capitalize on strong appeal of Beijing 2022

Last year’s Beijing Winter Olympics are fueling a seasonal sports boom in China.

Since the Games opened on Feb 4 to international acclaim, Chinese organizers have fully realized their ambitions to capitalize on the strong appeal of the events — evidenced by busy scenes at winter sports venues nationwide ahead of Spring Festival.

Most of the official Beijing 2022 competition venues, which impressed top Olympians with their sleek designs and facilities, reopened to the public at the end of last year. The venues have become popular destinations for the first-class services and events they offer.

Genting Snow Park, located in Olympic co-host Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, has stood out this winter as one of the busiest Beijing 2022 venues in the post-Games era.

Only midway into the 2022-23 snow season, some 30 events, including professional and amateur competitions, junior training programs and skiing festivals, have been scheduled at the mountain resort. A total of 20 gold medals were up for grabs in Genting during Beijing 2022 for events ranging from freestyle skiing to snowboarding.

Wang Shitong, the resort’s general manager for mountain operations, said the Olympic facilities and upgraded services at the venue have been a game-changer for its recovery from the pandemic.

“Having served the world’s best as an Olympic venue definitely gives us a huge advantage, both from marketing and operational perspectives,” Wang said.

“Our whole team, from snow-making and course building to emergency response, has improved greatly thanks to the hands-on involvement in operations during the Olympics, so that technically, the experiences we now offer to our customers are on the next level.”

Since the beginning of the winter season in mid-November, Genting has opened to the public 41 snow courses, including three that hosted parallel giant slalom, skiing and snowboarding cross and slopestyle competitions at Beijing 2022.

According to the venue’s marketing department, the resort receives about 4,000 visitors a day during weekends and 2,000 on weekdays. Business has returned to the pre-pandemic level.

As a common practice at Olympic venues, Genting’s mountain operations team has remodeled some of the courses built for highly technical Olympic events to accommodate skill levels among amateur participants.

Residents take to the ice in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia autonomous region. DING GENHOU/FOR CHINA DAILY

Wang said, “In this way, ordinary skiers and snowboarders can enjoy the Olympic experience in a fun and safe way. The Games venues should be for everyone.”

Winter sports enthusiasts in China have also turned frozen ponds, ice and snow carnivals, and mountain resorts nationwide into popular tourism spots.

These participants have been inspired by the host delegation’s victorious campaign at Beijing 2022, where Team China bagged a record haul of 15 medals, including an unprecedented nine golds.

Ski resorts at Changbai Mountain, Jilin province, are witnessing one of their hottest business seasons in the coldest period of the year, with large numbers of skiers and snowboarders gathering on the courses, at cable lift stations and in resort hotel lobbies.

Wang Hongli, operations manager at a resort in Fusong county, Baishan, Jilin, said, “Even though we have not fully recovered yet from the impact of the pandemic, we are still receiving at least 3,000 skiers a day, which is quite impressive, and the numbers will continue to rise.”

Han Xue, a staff member overseeing ski rental services at the resort, said the winter sports boom has increased demand for more advanced, higher-end and diverse equipment.

“Eight years ago, we had 2,800 snowboards in stock, too many at a time when people were all starting out by skiing. Now, we have 4,000 snowboards for rent each day, but this is not enough.”

Citing Beijing 2022’s legacy in promoting winter sports in the world’s most populous nation, the International Olympic Committee, or IOC, and major international governing bodies for winter sports have said the Games will go down in history for permanently changing the landscape of ice and snow sports.

According to a report by the General Administration of Sport of China, more than 346 million Chinese took part in winter sports and related activities at least once before the Games began, opening a huge untapped market.

IOC President Thomas Bach said in a video address at the opening of China’s ninth annual public ice and snow festival last month, “China wrote a new chapter in Olympic history by hosting the truly exceptional Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.”

The Games opened a new era for winter sports globally, driven by the enthusiasm of more than 300 million Chinese people who are now engaged in snow and ice sports, Bach added.

Kim Jae-youl, president of the International Skating Union, or ISU, citing skating’s popularity in China, and the nation’s prowess in the sport at Beijing 2022, said he expects China to play a more prominent role in promoting ice sports at grassroots and elite levels.

In a congratulatory message to the festival, Kim, who was elected ISU head in June, said, “The growth of the national public ice and snow festival in the past eight years reflects the growing interest in winter sports in China, and the investment involved.

Snow is being enjoyed in many areas of China this winter. WANG JIANG/CAI ZENGLE/FOR CHINA DAILY

“China has become one of the largest and strongest nations in skating, and this is only going to continue,” he said.

In a final review, the IOC’s Coordination Commission for Beijing 2022 said the Chinese capital’s smooth and safe organization of arguably the most sophisticated sporting event in the world, despite challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, was acknowledged with high regard.

Presenting the review report to an IOC executive board meeting early last month, Juan Antonio Samaranch, chair of the coordination commission and IOC vice-president, said, “The Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 were a showcase for incredible sporting performances.

“In addition to delivering a safe and successful Games, the organizing committee’s ambitious vision and promises were achieved and exceeded.”

Based on data analysis and debriefings with organizers and stakeholders, the report summarizes the key achievements of Beijing 2022, including athletes’ performances, media exposure, legacy and sustainability. It also furthers efforts by the IOC to optimize future Games’ delivery and experiences by drawing up seven recommendations based on practices at the Games last year.

To address challenges posed by the highly contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19, Beijing’s decision to stage the Games under a closed loop management system proved a feasible and flexible way to guarantee safe delivery of the event on time. The decision was taken after thorough discussions with the IOC, the World Health Organization and all other stakeholders.

All key Games’ participants, including athletes, coaches and organizers, stayed and traveled inside the closed loop, were separated from local communities, and subject to daily COVID-19 testing. They only used designated transportation services.

Thanks to the strict operation of this system, imported COVID-19 cases were kept under control throughout the Games, with no infections leaking from the loop.

Although ticket sales to the public were canceled, the Beijing 2022 organizing committee went to great lengths to ensure the presence of a total of 260,000 spectators at competition venues to generate a friendly and familiar atmosphere for athletes.

With the use of safe and high-quality venues, two world and 17 Olympic records were broken during the 16 days of competition, which produced a record total of 109 gold medals. More than 2,800 athletes from 91 countries and regions took part in the Games.

With women accounting for 45 percent of the competitors, Beijing 2022 was the most gender-balanced Winter Olympics to date. There were 46 events for women out of a total of 109, the review report said.

Sustainability and legacy were the other key contributors to the success of Beijing 2022, the report said, adding that all the Games venues were powered by renewable energy for the first time in Olympic history.

The outstanding example set by Beijing 2022 in reusing existing facilities — mostly those for the 2008 Summer Games — by incorporating preparations into urban renewal plans, and minimizing environmental impact while promoting clean energy, have pointed the way forward for the Olympics, the report said.

The Games enjoyed huge public support in China, with 5.2 million replicas of the official mascot Bing Dwen Dwen, a panda wearing an ice suit, sold by the end of May.

The Winter Games in Beijing were watched by more than 2.1 billion viewers on traditional and digital channels, with more broadcast hours and media coverage than any previous editions of the Winter Olympics, according to the review report.

“Even with the challenges of the COVID-19 countermeasures, operations and quality of service met expectations,” the report added.

“Any issues were promptly addressed. With athletes and sport at the center of considerations, the infrastructure, venues and fields of play were outstanding.

“The people of China were exceptional hosts who offered immense hospitality, warmth and kindness.”

Ice hockey enthusiasts put their skills to the test. DING GENHOU/WEI XIAOHAO/CHINA DAILY

Ice hockey enthusiasts put their skills to the test. DING GENHOU/WEI XIAOHAO/CHINA DAILY

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