Primary-school students try their hand at curling during the World Winter Sports (Beijing) Expo on Wednesday at China National Convention Center. (Photo/Xinhua)
China's bid to become a powerhouse on the ice and snow requires not only top athletes but also a developed winter sports industry.
That process was furthered this week when the third edition of the World Winter Sports (Beijing) Expo was staged at China National Convention Center in the capital.
Supported by the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympics Winter Games as well as the Chinese Olympic Committee, the four-day event attracted over 200 global experts, 500 brands from over 20 countries, 24,000 industry representatives and around 150,000 members of the public.
"We are using the Beijing Winter Olympics as an opportunity to promote winter sports in the country, and we have achieved many positive results so far," said Zhang Jiandong, the deputy mayor of Beijing.
"Holding the Winter Sports Expo is a vital part of our preparation work for the 2022 Games. From the past two editions to now, the expo has attracted numerous exhibitors to present their ice and snow equipment and programs, showing the huge potential of the industry.
"The multiple forums at the expo act as platforms for gathering and sharing wisdom and knowledge, while the demonstration programs have attracted more fans, especially the younger generation."
Many of the experts in attendance came from countries boasting a long tradition in winter sports excellence, and they were eager to share their knowledge with China.
Karl Stoss, president of the Austrian Olympics Committee, said that as well as being a great opportunity, the 2022 Games also posed huge challenges for China, with the construction of new venues and the refurbishment of existing ones, such as the Water Cube and the Bird's Nest stadium, cited as the main concerns.
Old or new, the idea is to leave a lasting legacy with energy-saving features and designs to boost post-Games participation rates.
"Since Beijing bid for the Winter Olympics, 'economical' has always been a keyword, and we share the same goal with the IOC (International Olympic Committee)," said Yang Yang, the chairwoman of the 2022 Games athletes' commission.
"However, it requires knowledge to guarantee the high quality of the Olympics and to make the Games economical at the same time.
"Many of the venues for the 2008 Summer Olympics will be reused at the 2022 Winter Games.
"Another example of our resourcefulness is how we transformed Shougang Group's old factory compound into a winter sports park, which earned praise from the IOC and provided the organization with new development opportunities.
Construction firms and equipment manufacturers flocked to the expo to show off their latest projects, including Eternal Star Ice and Snow Technology Co. Ltd.
The Chinese company owns Asia's biggest ice and snow equipment factory in Tianjin and built the world's biggest indoor ski resort in Wandamao Snow Amusement Park in Harbin, Heilongjiang province.
"Years ago, the cost of building ice and snow venues and facilities was very high because many materials and components had to be imported and we had to invite foreign experts to China for installation," said Jiang Jingen, the COO of Eternal Star Ice and Snow.
"We have to have our own technologies and manufacture our own products, otherwise we cannot have the true development of the industry. After years of development and technology breakthroughs, we built the world's biggest indoor ski resort of 80,000 square meters in China."
Another huge challenge for Beijing 2022 and China's winter industry ambitions is the lack of talent.
"The development of winter sports in China started very late with a weak foundation, which is evidenced by not only our competitive sports performance but also the lack of talent for event organizing," said Yang, of the 2022 organizing committee.
"Although the Beijing organizing committee has been recruiting and training talent, more are needed. For example, the volunteers for skiing events need to acquire excellent skiing skills to handle all sorts of emergencies that could happen during the Games, and those volunteers are not easy to find in China."
Yang added that a number of China's top winter sports athletes have joined the organizing committee, with some, including world champion speed skater Wang Beixing and curler Wang Bingyu, given managerial roles.