Olympics brings wave of winter sports popularity

By Zhao Ruixue in Jinan| (China Daily)| Updated : 2023-12-06

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Grade one students from a primary school in Fushan district of Yantai, Shandong province, experience ice sports at an ice center. HU BIN/FOR CHINA DAILY

Riding on a wave of popularity created by the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, winter sports in China are attracting millions of people to dip their toes into icy waters and have a go.

More than 30 primary school students in Fushan district of Yantai, Shandong province, gathered at an ice sports center for training on Monday. Equipped with ice skates and protective gear, the students followed the guidance of their coach as they glided on the ice with the help of small chairs.

"I feel great on the ice, like a little penguin," said Zhang Yutong, a grade one student from Fuhai Road Primary School.

The education and sports bureau of Fushan district has this winter organized free ice sports experiences for students from primary and junior middle schools in the district.

"Students have the opportunity to learn from professional coaches who teach them the proper way to wear protective gear and maneuver on the ice. They can also learn skills related to hockey and short-track speed skating," said Lin Wentao, deputy director of the equipment center of the bureau.

This initiative to popularize winter sports in schools was launched in the district in 2019 in response to the government's call to involve 300 million people in winter sports.

The aim is to introduce ice sports to kindergartners, provide basic courses for primary school students in grades one and two, and offer more advanced courses in hockey and short-track speed skating to students in grades three and above.

Over the past three years, primary school students have participated in winter sports activities, including short-track speed skating, ice hockey, figure skating and curling, a total of 30,000 times, the bureau said.

Seven primary and junior middle schools in the district are rated as national-level schools characterized by ice and snow sports.

"Children have a natural affinity and love for ice and snow," said Zhang Tingting, a mother of a grade four student from the district's Donghua Primary School.

"Just like children enjoy snowball fights, children are excited to put on ice skates and hit the ice rink, even if they fall down frequently," said Zhang, adding that ice sports have not only improved physical fitness but also strengthened the willpower of her child.

Chongli district in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, where most of the snow events of the 2022 Winter Olympics were held, has witnessed a surging number of enthusiasts stepping on their snowboards.

The district had received a total of 511,400 visits and earned tourism revenue of 449 million yuan ($63 million) as of Saturday this snow season, according to the district's culture and tourism bureau.

Since the opening of Forlong Ski Resort at Forlong Four Seasons Town this year, it has received more than 60,000 skier visits, nearly doubling the number of 2019, Zou Zhongqiao, deputy manager of the resort's culture and tourism department, was quoted as saying by Beijing Business Today on Wednesday.

The rise in demand for hotels and guesthouses has reflected a significant increase in skiing demand.

To meet the surging demand, Zhangjiakou has taken multiple measures while making full use of its post-Olympics legacy, such as holding competition events at Olympic venues and putting on entertainment.

The city published a system last month standardizing its snow resorts' services covering catering, accommodation, transportation, sightseeing, shopping and entertainment.

Zhang Yu contributed to this story.