Chinese people have never lacked enthusiasm for ice and snow and have always been interested in winter sports. But the successful bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games has ignited the people’s interest and this glamorous sport has become the most popular topic in China today.
That 300 million Chinese will be inspired to take part in winter sports will be the greatest legacy of the Winter Olympics. “Beijing’s success in winning the bid for hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics will motivate 300 million Chinese to participate in winter sports, which will bring unprecedented opportunities for the Olympic movement and the sustainable development of winter sports in China,” said Liu Peng, president of the Chinese Olympic Committee.
During the winter season of 2014 to 2015, due to the rising enthusiasm associated with China’s bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics, ski resorts in Zhangjiakou witnessed an explosive growth in the number of visitors, an increase of 80 percent compared to that of the previous year.
The sixth national survey of sporting facilities shows that Beijing currently boasts 17 professional ice rinks and 21 outdoor ski resorts. During the winter season of 2014 to 2015, due to the rising enthusiasm associated with China’s bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics, ski resorts in Zhangjiakou witnessed an explosive growth in the number of visitors, an increase of 80 percent compared to that of the previous year. Simultaneously, with rapid socioeconomic development in China, winter sports have gradually broken geographical limitations and expanded from the north to the south. In the southern metropolis of Shanghai, where people seldom see natural snow, there are already up to ten indoor ice rinks opening throughout the year, and five winter sports clubs. Every year high-level winter sports events are held there, and the city has attracted lots of excellent retired athletes who have helped to popularise winter sports there. In Nanjing, the Olympic Sports Centre has always been a source of joy for children and due to the presence of its skating rink, many schools have been able to offer winter sports lessons like ice hockey and figure skating which have led many parents to enrol their children. In Jiangsu, Anhui and other provinces, even smaller artificial ski resorts are always full of people during the winter.
Chinese people have begun to experience the unique charm of winter sports.
China’s second alliance with the Olympic Games will serve to increase the availability of fitness activities for the nation. When talking about winter sports, Yao Ming, a former NBA superstar, compared it to a bonfire, “Everything is in place and all we need is a spark to light the fire. Basketball went through the same process a long time ago and the time has come for winter sports.” Chinese people have never lacked enthusiasm for ice and snow and have always been interested in winter sports. The successful bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games has ignited the people’s interest and this glamorous sport has become the most popular topic in China today.
To be strong in winter
It seems that every one of China’s northeastemers (residents of Northeast China) possesses one or two winter skills. This region has four to five months of snowfall every year, abundant forest reserves and excellent snow. It is China’s best region for ice and snow and provides the most favourable natural conditions for numerous local residents who love winter sports. Li Sida, a young man from the region, grew up on this vast fertile land. Like the previous generations, he has tried all kinds of winter sports since he was small. He can recount the histories of various winter sports at length, is especially familiar with their stars, and is particularly good at ice swimming, skating, sledging and skiing, but he is best at skiing and enjoys it the most.
“If you ask me why I like these sports, I can’t give you a definite answer. My love for winter sports comes from the bottom of my heart, just as I liked having a snowball fight and making snowmen when I was a child,” said Li Sida, when asked about his fondness for skiing.
He overcame his fear in the end and skied perfectly down the advanced slope. Looking back, Li Sida still gets ecstatic, “I felt like I was reborn, and my life became richer from that point on. Skiing seems easy, but the challenge is to break barriers in your mind.”
Of course, it’s by no means easy to learn to ski. Everything went exceptionally well with Li Sida. When he went skiing for the first time with his father, he didn’t even fall down once. He almost walked on air, believing that skiing was easy. So, after staying on the beginner slopes for just a while, he went to the intermediate slopes to practice more difficult techniques, which inevitably led to an unfortunate end – he fell half way down, struggled for more than an hour to get down the slope, and worse still, he couldn’t even put his ski boots on in the end. He realized that skiing was by no means as easy as he thought, and that adequate preparation was needed beforehand. After that, Li Sida bought many instruction DVDs, studied them carefully at home and then practiced the techniques on the ski slopes again and again. Through determination, he was eventually able to face the challenges of advanced slopes. His legs, though, couldn’t help but tremble when he first stood at the top of an advanced slope and looked down. “I was so nervous that my ski poles were in the wrong position,” said Li. But he overcame his fear in the end and skied perfectly down the advanced slope. Looking back, Li Sida still gets ecstatic, “I felt like I was reborn, and my life became richer from that point on.” “Skiing seems easy, but the challenge is to break barriers in your mind. To accomplish a goal that you have set for yourself is immensely satisfying for your soul. It is also a way of challenging oneself and surpassing one’s limits.”
A southern woman’s love story with ice and snow
Liu Xiaoya, a gentle woman with a sweet temper from the south of the Yangtse River, had an obsession with snow. In her hometown it seldom snows in winter, and when it does, only a few flakes of white snow will fall during the night and soon melt away when the sun rises. So when she applied for universities after taking the college entrance examinations, she selected universities in the north of China without any hesitation and in spite of her family’s objections. In the end, she arrived in Beijing with hopes of experiencing snow.
During her first winter in Beijing, Xiaoya recalls, “I saw so much snow for the first time that I was awestruck, unable to utter a single word. I just stood by the window and looked at the snow falling outside.” When talking about the experience, Xiaoya’s eyes still glimmer with excitement though the story happened many years ago. A group of friends wearing thick down coats, having snowball fights and making snowmen without a care in the world-that is Xiaoya’s most cherished memory from that year.
I didn’t know that people could do so many interesting things in the winter, until I met him. Even when it does not snow, every park and ski resort will have a number of winter activities such as skating, skiing, luging, rubber-ring sledding, ice biking and so on.”
It so happened that an elder boy who grew up beside the Mudan River appeared in her life at that time, and introduced her to the world of ice and snow. “I didn’t know that people could do so many interesting things in the winter, until I met him. Even when it does not snow, every park and ski resort will have a number of winter activities such as skating, skiing, luging, rubber-ring sledding, ice biking and so on.” After they met, the two young lovers could be seen every winter at ice rinks and winter festivals around Beijing. “He comes from the northeast, and is good at winter sports. At first, I didn’t know what to do and just followed him. After I mastered the skills, I became quite good, in fact so good that people didn’t believe I am a southerner. We have also made friends with lots of likeminded people, and we still often get together in our free time.”
Now, the lovers have become a happily married couple and the cute young girl has become a mother and their love for winter sports has been passed on to the next generation. “My daughter’s favourite season is winter, because in winter she can go rubber-ring sledding at the ski resort, and what she enjoys most is rushing down a high ski slope on a rubber-ring.”
The news that Beijing has successfully won the bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics made this small family of mixed roots really excited. “With people’s in love with winter sports, and those of us who enjoy winter sports will have more places to go and can choose from a larger range of activities.”
Published in Confucius Institute Magazine
Magazine 40. Volume 5. September 2015.
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