Public warming to winter competitions

Updated: 2015-07-27 07:58

By Sun Xiaochen(China Daily)

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Beijing's bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics has driven public enthusiasm for winter sports to new heights.

Skating on frozen ponds for fun has long been a tradition for people in North China, but Beijing's 2022 bid has made it newly fashionable as modern winter sports such as figure skating and ice hockey appeal to a growing number of urban youth.

The popularity of ice hockey among children from well-off families in Beijing is strong proof of the new fervor for winter sports.

At the Hockey Skills Challenge Contest held by the Beijing Hockey Association in early July, more than 30 players aged from 6 to 12 competed in nine skills, including shooting, sprinting, passing and handling, at the indoor rink of an eastern Beijing mall.

"This was only a glimpse of the sport's massive popularity in Beijing, and the appearance of Song Andong will further boost parents' commitment to get their kids involved in the team sport," said Liu Ge, vice-president and secretary-general of BHA.

Song, an 18-year-old Beijing native, made history by becoming the first Chinese player to be drafted in the National Hockey League when he was selected by the New York Islanders as the No 172 overall pick at the NHL Draft in June.

Song started to practice and play the Western-dominated sport in BHA's junior league, which has had more than 2,000 children from 96 club teams register with its league system since its establishment in 2012, Liu said.

" Song's story will encourage more middle-class families in China to invest in ice hockey, and eventually more kids of his caliber will be cultivated to represent China on world stage," said the film director Ying Da, whose son plays ice hockey in Canada.

According to the State Administrative Center of Winter Sports, there are 10 ski resorts and 15 rinks operated by private investors and governments in Beijing with the high standard required to host public events.

However, that's not enough to cater to the public's growing demand for winter sports for exercise and fun.

"We are currently short of facilities and venues, but the bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics will drive the enthusiasm of the private sector to invest more in winter sports infrastructure, which will benefit grassroots participation in return," said Zhao Yinggang, deputy secretary-general of the Beijing 2022 bid committee.

As part of Beijing's 2022 bid, it aims to involve 300 million people in North China in winter sports, so winter sports education and school courses will be implemented to engage a larger number of children, Zhao said.

(China Daily 07/27/2015 page24)