'Vasa' cross-country race windfall for Changchun

Updated: 2013-01-01 07:51

By Wu Yong (China Daily)

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 'Vasa' cross-country race windfall for Changchun

The International Vasaloppet Ski Festival is held within the boundaries of the scenic Jingyue National High and New Technology Development Zone. Photos provided to China Daily

Fuelling healthy lifestyle, growth in the economy

Fifty-seven-year-old PerOlof Storsten didn't know he would join the ski festival in Changchun when his family came to China for a holiday.

"It is a wonderful experience to join the Vasa ski race in China and it enables me to have clearer understanding about what's going on here," said Storsten, who works for the Swedish Association of Industrial Employers. He usually skis in the US and Europe.

Storsten is not the only one set for the race on Jan 2. Liu Ming, 45, began making preparations for the upcoming ski season a month ago - tuning his skis and gradually increasing his workout.

"Skiing has become part of my life," said Liu. Once he began skiing, he gradually gave up smoking, drinking, playing mahjong and other unhealthy or time consuming habits. His weight dropped from 100 kg to 70 kg.

Like Liu, thousands of residents in Changchun, capital of Jilin province, are looking forward to the annual Jingyuetan International Vasaloppet Ski Festival.

'Vasa' cross-country race windfall for Changchun

The festival began on Jan 2 and will conclude on Feb 24, and by the time it's over, some 2,000 athletes and winter sports enthusiasts from more than 30 countries and regions are expected to have participated. The event has seven races and 20 activities including a beauty contest, a painting and calligraphy show, a national winter camp for teenagers. One of the races is China's national college cross-country skiing competition.

The winter wonderland includes a European-style snow park developed by the local government covering 40,000 square meters, double the size of last year. Recreation and sports aficionados can join in cross-country skiing, ice golf, ice bowling, ice soccer and snow slides.

Sino-European friendship

The 90-year-old Vasaloppet began in Sweden as a long distance cross-country ski race. Organizers say it is the oldest and most popular ski race in the world.

The event commemorates Swedish king and national hero Gustav Vasa, who escaped from the troops of Christian II, king of Denmark, in 1521 by skiing all the way back to his supporters to fight the Danish ruler.

The first Vasaloppet Ski Festival was held in Moran, Sweden. Now a highlight of the year, it attracts more than 40,000 skiers from all over the world.

In 2001, Swedish Nordic Ways International Development Corp, which specializes in organizing large international sports events, found that the terrain and environment of Jingyuetan was ideal for a cross-country ski race.

It then suggested bringing the Vasaloppet to Changchun.

China's first Vasaloppet in Changchun was held in 2003, making China the fourth country to host the event following Sweden, the United States and Japan.

Borje Ljunggren, the Swedish ambassador to China at the time, said at the opening ceremony that "a new tradition has been born".

Natural beauty

 'Vasa' cross-country race windfall for Changchun

Equipped for the cross-country ski race ahead. Ding Luyang / China Daily

The Jingyue National High and New Technology Development Zone is known for its natural beauty and rich ecology. It is not only an economic engine driving the city, but also a major tourism destination.

Although there are many other major events in the zone, including an agricultural expo, cross-country run and mountain bicycle race, the most famous is the Vasaloppet Ski Festival.

Ten years ago, few Chinese people knew about cross-country skiing. But thanks to the festival, more and more Chinese are interested in the sport.

Many local residents like Liu in Changchun or even in Northeast China have become good skiers while the skiing world learned there is an international quality piste in Northeast China called Jingyuetan.

"Vasa has gradually changed the lifestyle of Changchun citizens, breathing in a much healthier, more fashionable and casual lifestyle. Moreover, it is a platform for the zone and even the city to communicate with the world," said Guan Shusen, director of the development zone.

"Thanks to the gala, the city's internationalization has been improved and the friendship among ski amateurs home and abroad has been strengthened."

Supreme trails

Jilin's snowfall and long winter create supreme conditions for skiing. As a result, many top ski resorts from Asia come from within the province's boundaries. In total, there are nearly 100 ski trails.

The festival that combines both Nordic and Chinese cultures not only attracts top athletes to show their skills, but also new business opportunities with dozens of commercial fairs, tourism activities as well as cultural exchange programs.

Xiao Wanmin, deputy mayor of Changchun emphasized that 131 projects involving 114.85 billion yuan ($18.42 billion) have been attracted to Changchun over the past decade thanks to the winter gala.

"We signed 14 contacts of investments this year, which sets new record in history. And this is Jingyue's best new-year gift for the city, " said Xiao.

"I would join this game in the future if I came here," said Storsten.

Liu Yushi contributed to the story.


 'Vasa' cross-country race windfall for Changchun

From left: Winter charm of Jingyuetan; top three winners of the Miss Ice and Snow Angel beauty contest held during the gala; massive snow sculpture at the festival depicts galloping horses. Provided to China Daily, Liu Xiao and Ding Luyang / China Daily

(China Daily 01/01/2013 page7)