Beijing hosts women's ice hockey tourney
Updated: 2015-03-31 20:56
By Sun Xiaochen(chinadaily.com.cn)
Officials from Beijing Municipal Sports Bureau and the State Winter Sports Administrative Center attend the press conference of 2015 IIHF Women’s World Championship Division I Group B in Bejing on Tuesday. [Photo by Sun Xiaochen/chinadaily.com.cn]
With Beijing's bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics progressing, the Chinese ice hockey governing body expects to promote female participation in the highly-physical sport by hosting the world championship.
The 2015 International Ice Hockey Federation Women's World Championship Division I Group B will be held for the first time in Beijing at the Capital Indoor Stadium from April 6 to 12, organizers announced on Tuesday.
Six women's teams from around the world, including host China, world No 12 squad Slovakia and European power Netherlands will compete in a round-robin format at the event for an automatic promotion berth to the Division I Group A tournament next year.
The IIHF World Championships system features an eight-seed top-level tournament and two lower divisions, each divided into two groups according to world rankings. The winner of each group's annual tournament earns promotion to a higher level while the last-place team is relegated to a lower event.
As the public's interest in winter sports in China has grown along with Beijing's bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics, hosting the women's ice hockey tournament will further ignite the passion for the ice while benefiting Beijing's bid, said Chen Jie, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Sports Bureau.
"Hosting the event will offer the growing number of ice hockey fans in Beijing a rare opportunity to watch world-class competitions on our doorstep. The event also will become the first international ice hockey tournament held in Beijing and will provide operational experiences for Beijing's 2022 bid," Chen said at a Tuesday press conference launching the event.
In recent years, thanks to the improvement of urban skating facilities and the increase in residents' disposable incomes, ice sports such as ice hockey and figure skating have become popular recreational activities in Chinese metropolises like Beijing and Shanghai.
According to the Beijing Ice Hockey Association, almost 2,000 children from a record number of 96 student teams registered with the Beijing Minor Hockey Premier League's 2014-15 season.
"The youth participation (in ice hockey) is on a rise as more and more middle-class families have embraced the sport as a educational exercise for their children, especially boys," said Tong Lixin, deputy director of the State Winter Sports Administrative Center.
"However, that doesn't translate into the elite level because very few of the children willbecome full-time ice hockey players after the youth period due to the lack of rinks and professional development of the sport," Tong added.
The 23-member women's national team is mainly made of players affiliated with the Harbin sports bureau in Heilongjiang province, who were drafted from a thin talent pool.
"Despite the tough reality, we expect that the interest in Beijing's 2022 bid will help attract more funding and policy support from the government to develop the sport, thus attracting more children to get involved in professional training and to choose ice hockey as a future career," said Yu Tiande, leader of the Chinese national team.
To boost the sport's development, Chen said the next edition of the quadrennial Games of Beijing, which takes place in 2018, will for the first time include ice hockey in its program. The municipal government will provide designated funding to build more rinks in the Chinese capital.