The 100-day countdown to the 2022 Winter Olympic Games has begun. And while the clock of preparation ticks, the Olympic flame, ignited for the Beijing 2022 Winter Games in Ancient Olympia in Greece, has arrived in the Chinese capital.
The welcoming ceremony for the Olympic torch was held on Oct 20 at the Olympic Tower, an iconic landmark of the 2008 Beijing Summer Games, where Cai Qi, secretary of the Communist Party of China Beijing municipal committee and president of the Beijing 2022 Organizing Committee, took over the flame and lit the cauldron.
The ceremony acquired added importance because Beijing is the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games.
The Beijing Winter Games, to be held six months after Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics that was deferred for more than a year due to the pandemic, will strengthen the international community’s determination to combat the global health crisis, and carry forward the Olympic spirit.
China has taken many measures since the 2010s to promote winter sports including the Ice and Snow Sports Development Program (2016-25) and associated infrastructure investment, supported by plans to boost the nascent winter sports industry including the national fitness plan (2016-20), and the ice and snow facilities (2016-22) and ice and snow tourism (2021-23) programs. The targets are ambitious, though: increasing people’s participation in winter sports to 300 million and raising the winter sports industry value to about $155 billion.
The goals also include improving the well-being and health of the people, by encouraging more people to play sports, and bettering the transportation system and the environment. The results of these measures have been encouraging－for example, a decade ago, there were only about 200 ski resorts in China, but by the end of 2019, the number had increased to 770.
Besides, the government’s winter sports development road map, which includes developing more skating rinks and ski resorts, has laid the foundation for a winter sports industry’s boom. And as a result of China deepening cooperation with several leading winter sports countries, some European countries have hosted Chinese athletes for training, and foreign coaches are working to boost the performance of the Chinese winter sports team.
Despite the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic, the construction of the ice and snow sports venues, including ski jumping, freestyle skiing and cross-country skiing sites, is on track, as is the building of the Olympic Village in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, and the Beijing-Zhangjiakou intercity railway.
Competitions and training programs for domestic and overseas athletes will be held to test the suitability and safety of some of the sites, as well as to check the other arrangements.
The growth of ice and snow sports and the winter sports industry in China should be welcome news for stakeholders across the world, including athletes and winter sports powerhouses, because they can use the scores of new venues China has developed for winter sports in preparation for the Winter Games.
But keeping in mind the pandemic situation across the world and to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, China has decided to restrict the sale of tickets for the Winter Games to only fully vaccinated Chinese mainland residents.
Beijing successfully bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics more than six years ago and immediately started preparing for it.
The Olympic spirit symbolizes human resilience, and the international community’s determination to contain the novel coronavirus. And along with the Olympic spirit, the Beijing 2022 Games’ motto, “Together for a Shared Future”, is a call to people to march together under the Olympic flag, and convey the common aspiration of all the countries to build a better future.
Hopefully, the organizers, and athletes and other participants will spare no efforts to uphold the Olympic spirit, create a safe atmosphere for everyone at the Winter Games, and make it a grand success. Yi Jiandong, In China Daily