National Winter Games put incing on Olympic legacy(4)

2024-02-28 08:16:48China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

Jobs, tourism boom

Similar to the Beijing 2022 Olympics, which ran from Feb 4 to 20, the 14th National Winter Games saw the majority of its competitions overlap with the Spring Festival holiday. This overlap spurred an even bigger tourism boom around winter sports and related leisure activities than two years ago, when pandemic control measures were in place.

Traditionally, Chinese prefer to spend their Spring Festival holidays in warmer southern destinations, such as Hainan province. However, the attraction of ice and snow activities, promoted by the National Winter Games, proved a "game-changer" this year.

Hulunbuir received a record number of 1.66 million visits during the eight-day Spring Festival holiday, nine times the total in 2023. Tourism revenue increased tenfold from the previous year to 1.14 billion yuan ($160 million), according to the city government.

"Hosting the National Winter Games offered us a great opportunity to promote our ice and snow tourism attractions," Sun Hui, a deputy mayor of Hulunbuir, said at a news conference on Feb 16, a day before the opening ceremony.

Inspired by star athletes such as Olympic freestyle skiing champion Gu Ailing and snowboarding prodigy Su, more and more people are taking up winter sports in cities with warmer climates that rarely see snow.

In Southwest China's Chongqing, a passion for winter sports has gripped the city. Known better for its scorching summers, it has been transformed into a hub for ice and snow activities thanks to the development of indoor facilities.

Chongqing, which sent a team to the National Winter Games for the first time, has seen surging public demand at nine skating rinks and 10 ski venues, including two indoor ones, this winter.

Ma Fuqiang, a ski instructor at Jinfo Mountain Ski Resort who hails from Heilongjiang, has noticed the growing interest in winter sports. "Most tourists at the ski resort are beginners. They get very excited when they see snow, which drives a high demand for ski instructors," Ma said.

At Jinfo Mountain resort there are more than 140 ski instructors, most of whom come from Northeast China and work from mid-November to early March. During periods of strong demand on weekends or holidays, the resort sometimes experiences a shortage of instructors.

The demand will only grow stronger, said Wu Yannian, a professor from the School of Physical Education at Jinan University in Guangzhou, Guangdong province.

"The majority of ski resort visitors in the south are still winter sports beginners. The progression in their skill levels will result in higher demand for services and facilities, helping tap into greater market potential," he said of winter sports participation in South China.

The newfound passion of ordinary Chinese for winter sports has also impressed international officials, such as Sarah Henderson from the United Kingdom, the short-track speedskating chief referee at the Hulunbuir games.

"There is everything we need for a competition. It is a great event for the athletes and coaches with the fantastic ice rink and facilities here," Henderson told Xinhua.

After witnessing an exceptionally successful competition at Beijing 2022, Henderson said she was again in awe of the Chinese crowd's enthusiasm for winter sports.

"They love skaters. I saw the posters of Wu Dajing (Olympic champion skater). It is an enjoyable environment," said Henderson, who has visited China four times since her first trip to Beijing for an Olympic test event in 2021.

"I really enjoy seeing the promotion of winter sports. There are many young talents in China. Keep going. It will be exciting."


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