Keeping his skis next to a rabbit slope, Li Wei indulges in his winter job as a farmer-turned-farmer ski instructor in the northwest suburbs of Beijing.
The tall, tanned 36-year-old works from December to March at a resort in Dien Khanh district that will host skiing, luge and other skiing events at the Olympics. winter, opening next week.
The ruling Communist Party is using the Olympics to promote winter sports, many new to most Chinese, for fitness and business opportunities.
Skiing “lifted my income to another level,” said Li, who charges 400 to 500 yuan ($60 to $80) for each lesson — roughly what his family earns. in a week of planting corn during the warmer months. He also finds skiing relaxing.
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“After a few slides down the intermediate slope, all my troubles were gone,” he said.
Many people in Beijing have long enjoyed winter skating on the canals and lakes. But now, young Chinese are expanding their aspirations from basketball, football and gymnastics to sports like hockey and skiing.
Government and private companies have built ice rinks and ski runs. Public schools are adding ice skating and other winter sports. Parents are opening their wallets to pay for hockey teams and skating lessons. Villages near the ski slopes are building inns to cater to connoisseurs.
“I want to be an ice hockey player in the future,” said 8-year-old Guo Yuchen, who learned the sport at age 4 and practices seven hours a week at a rink in Beijing. “Then I can bring glory to my country.”
Wu Mengkai, 11, said hockey made him more outgoing and a “very loving person”.
“You can’t be introspective when playing ice hockey,” Wu said. “You have to be brave enough to fight.”
Mark Dreyer, author of the book “Sporting Superpowers: An Insider’s View of China’s Journey to Becoming the Best,” said the construction of the Winter Olympics set off these trends. .
“We also see a more organic push from China’s middle class, recognizing the value of sport not only for their children but also for themselves,” says Dreyer.
The Winter Olympics will take place without foreign tourists or ordinary spectators in line with China’s “zero tolerance” strategy to prevent the virus from entering the country. Athletes, reporters and officials are required to stay in areas that isolate them from the public.
About 106 of the 3,695 people who have come from abroad to attend the Olympics so far have tested positive for coronavirus. Two are athletes or team officials.
China’s capital tightened anti-virus measures and ordered mass testing of about 2 million people in one county after the outbreak. Some families are barred from leaving their homes.
Foreign sports brands see growth opportunities in China but are disappointed as marketing and business development are hampered by anti-virus controls and a ban on most foreigners entering entry into China.
“It’s a way of alleviating things,” said Jeffrey Potter, president of Proskatecorner Pte. Ltd., the Chinese distributor of American hockey equipment manufacturer True.
Potter said in a videoconference interview from Toronto, without the virus, the marketing push from the Olympics would be bigger, really helping the economy and making hockey the game. more common, says Potter.
At the Vanke Shijinglong ski resort, where Li teaches, tourist Long Xuelian said she fell in love with skiing on the first try, despite having skied many times.
“More and more of my friends know how to ski,” said Long, who was on a ski break, chatting with his friend.
According to its marketing director, Liu Yingkai, the resort’s visitor numbers have grown by 15% to 20% annually since Beijing and neighboring Zhangjiakou were awarded the Winter Olympics in 2014. 2015. Liu said that number increased by 40% last year, even during the pandemic.
Zhang Xiaodong grew up in Zhangjiakou but never learned to ski, so he pursued the sport as an adult. “I have to learn how to ski so that when I bring my kids here next time, I will know how to teach them,” said the IT engineer.
The Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper quoted Xing He, deputy secretary general of the Beijing Ice Hockey Association, as saying that at least 8,000 people in Beijing join hockey teams.
“Games are held more often and school teams come here to practice,” said Wang Yuming, general manager of Star Hong-ao Ice Sports stadium in western Beijing.
Li Sen, director of the Integrated Planning Department of the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee, said that nationwide, more than 450 skating rinks and 300 snow resorts have been built since 2015, although some have closed during the pandemic.
Skiing and other sports have given an economic boost to the villages near the resorts.
“For tourists to come and eat, there must be restaurants around,” said Jiang Xinwei of Analysys International, a research firm in Beijing.
Houheilong Miao, a village in Yanqing, overlooks the Olympic ski site. The 20 traditionally vacant courtyard houses have mostly been turned into motels and a cafe that has been dubbed the “Winter Olympic House”.
Wang Haifang, a mother of two, is one of the local residents hired to work as bartenders, housekeepers and cleaners. She applauded as she witnessed the dilapidated village being cleaned up like Beijing’s modern urban areas.
“Over the past year, things have stabilized,” she said.
Associated Press video producers Olivia Zhang and Caroline Chen contributed to this report.
https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/sports/beijing-winter-olympics/china-skis-olympics-brings-on-boom-in-winter-sports/3125010/ The Olympics Bring a Boom in Winter Sports – NBC10 Philadelphia