China embraces new era of winter sports ahead of Olympics – CGTN

Children practice inline hockey at the cultural square of the Bell and Drum Tower in Beijing, China, August 17, 2021. /CFP
The lithe young lady with a tailor-made face mask beguiled, enchanted and intrigued visitors with the stirring vivacity of a time-served marketeer at a roistering trade fair. She was standing behind a booth jazzed up with smart technologies in ice and snow sports – VR/AR ski jumping, ice skating and simulated curling; most of the milling crowd was fully loaded with a spate of pamphlets and packages. The inviting exhibitions around them were anchored by a colossal cultural and sports complex, dotted with sleek halls, themed meeting rooms and topped by a cinema with a titanic 8K microLED modular screen.
The growth of China’s winter sports industry has been so brisk that the groundswell of goodwill and passion was highly palpable in western Beijing’s Shougang Park, where the latest edition of the World Winter Sports Expo (WWSE) goes live on Friday.
As a key part of the 2021 China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS), this year’s WWSE has attracted over 500 exhibitors and approximately 24,000 representatives from professional institutions. Up to 200,000 visitors are expected to set foot in Shougang Park over the next four days, according to organizers. 
The 2021 World Winter Sports Expo is held at Shougang Park, a colossal cultural and sports complex in Beijing, China, September 3, 2021. /CGTN
“The Expo is bound to be a massive festal event with a high level of international involvement and public engagement in winter sports,” beamed Gao Yunchao, deputy secretary general of Beijing Olympic City Development Association (BODA).
There’s ample reason to bask in such warm glow of optimism, not least because Shougang Park, one of the most eye-catching monuments to China’s urban regeneration efforts, is also home to the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games Organizing Committee (BOCOG), which has become ground zero for winter sports development. China’s rising interest in this area is apparent for all to see.
A white paper released by the China Tourism Academy this year noted that ice and snow sports in China were tipped to draw 230 million visits in the 2020-2021 winter seasons, with projected turnover of 390 billion yuan ($60.3 billion). It said that the up-and-coming sector was bankrolled to the tune of 900 billion yuan over the past three years. 
Visitors flock to various thematic exhibition halls during the the World Winter Sports Expo at Shougang Park, Beijing, China, September 3, 2021. /CGTN
Fueled by the deep pockets, skating venues are popping up in record time, and the number of ski resorts is estimated to jump from about 570 in 2015 to more than 1,000 by 2022, according to an action plan. The number of Chinese companies involved in winter sports also swelled to 4,650 in 2020 from 1,950 in 2015. Even the fiercest skeptic would grudgingly admit that the sector’s economic trends are heartening.
It was not always obvious that the country would do so well. Only two decades ago, China was practically cut off from the clannish winter sports world by its predominantly unsuitable weather and a lack of popular interest. It had just a dozen indoor ice rinks at the turn of the century.
Now, driven by its successful bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics, and its ever-growing prowess in producing artificial snow and ski simulators, China is standing proud as one of the most promising powers in winter sports.
For all the phenomenal progress and awe-inspiring breakthroughs, the picture is not all rosy. While the ice and snow industry is firmly gathering pace, China still faces deep-seated structural problems that cannot be remedied merely by government subsidies. 
Visitors wait their turn to exprience the augmented reality (AR) ski goggles during the World Winter Sports Expo at Shougang Park, Beijing, China, September 3, 2021. /CGTN
The most glaring of issues at the moment is the country’s overwhelming number of beginners in winter sports. Compared to developed countries in the ice and snow industry, this particular group make up a disproportionately large part of the people who participate in winter sports in China.
The tricky part is that the percentage of those who bother to convert themselves from thrill-seeking tyros to true-hearted enthusiasts is extremely low, which could bode ill for the sustained and long-term development of China’s winter sports industry.
There have been mounting concerns about this hidden threat lurking in the shadows, with experts sounding the alarm over the risk of bubbles bursting in the Chinese winter sports market if the status quo is maintained. Hence the importance of the WWSE 2021 cannot be downplayed.
The prestigious Expo brings together established brands, emerging start-ups, seasoned retailers and suppliers, and picks the brains of industry heavyweights, government officials and many other distinguished professionals. This grand assembly of the winter sports industry could provide much-needed inspiration and ideas for China to respond to the challenges it is currently encountering.
A rapt audience packs the main conference of the World Winter Sports Expo at Shougang Park, Beijing, China, September 3, 2021. /CGTN
“The WWSE will offer a wealth of on-site activities including exhibitions, international forums, industry conferences and special events for participants to exchange ideas and gain exclusive access to the latest innovations,” said Liu Jingmin, executive vice chairman of the BODA. “It’s expected to make an even greater contribution to an excellent, extraordinary and exceptional Winter Olympics in 2022.”
One more reason for the buoyant mood is that the Expo has a proven track record of accelerating industrial upgrading and restructuring, which would go a long way towards enhancing winter sports’ attractiveness to Chinese consumers. It was a sentiment echoed by He Jianghai, vice secretary-general of the BOCOG. “The WWSE is set to play a vital role in creating a legacy of getting 300 million people engaged in winter sport,” he observed.  
Judging by the carnival atmosphere at the vibrant Shougang Park, he would hardly be the first person to say that.
Copyright © 2020 CGTN. Beijing ICP prepared NO.16065310-3
Copyright © 2020 CGTN. Beijing ICP prepared NO.16065310-3
Copyright © 2020 CGTN. Beijing ICP prepared NO.16065310-3


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