Snow, hotpot and ski shoes: China awaits the Winter Olympics

Source:Xinhua Published: 2017/1/13 14:25:36

Chang Guangchun seldom sees foreigners in her village, but started learning English two years ago.

The 29-year-old woman is from Xidazhuangke village in Yanqing District, north Beijing, where the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games will be held.

"Many foreigners will be coming for the Winter Olympics," she said. "At least I will be able to tell them where the toilets are if they ask."

Placards promoting the grand sporting event have been put in prominent positions on the roadside from Yanqing's downtown all the way to the village of 101 residents.

"I first saw foreigners in 2014," Chang told Xinhua. "They often came to conduct field inspections."

It was also when Chang first heard her village might be the venue for the Winter Olympics.

Village Party Secretary Xu Jianxi was notified a little earlier, when the first group of experts came for a pre-inspection tour in September 2013.

"I never thought they would finally select us as there were several alternatives," he said.

In the spring of 2015, Xu was told they would be picked as long as Beijing and Hebei's Zhangjiakou won the bid to co-host the games.

"We won the bid on July 31, and everyone here was delighted as they knew it would generate more jobs and better infrastructure," Xu said.

Chang is also hopeful that the bid will lead to improvements in the village.

"We hope the Winter Olympics can boost the construction of an electrical power system, and that more roads will be built to our village," she said.

Nestling at the foot of Haituo Mountain and close to famous scenic spots such as the Great Wall and Yudu Mountain, tourism contributes half of the village's total income.

"Most tourists come in July and August," Xu said.

Chang's family opened a hostel in 2008, the same year Beijing hosted the Summer Olympics.

The hostel can accommodate 40 tourists and allows 80 to dine at the same time, bringing in about 30,000 yuan (about 4,350 US dollars) every summer.

Lack of a unified heating system and monotonous winter scenery forces villagers to close business on cold days, but a planned ski resort, also to be used as an Olympic competition ground, is expected to keep the village busy in winter.

"The ski slopes are less than 10 kilometers away, and are said to end just in front of my house," Chang said, standing at her doorway, pointing at several lines of withered cherry-apple trees in the valley.

"People tend to spend more in winter," she added. "Visitors prefer cold dishes in summer, while in winter they usually order hot dishes which are more expensive. We will offer hotpot for tourists in winter."

To better serve the Winter Olympics, local residents voluntarily set up an organization "Son of Haituo" in October 2015.

"We train locals on emergency rescue, and teach them English and sign language," Xu Zhenxing, director of the association told Xinhua. The association is also launching campaigns to raise the environmental protection awareness of locals.

"The winter Olympics will definitely fuel people's enthusiasm in sports," said Ma Yuquan, head of the Yanqing District Sports Bureau.

"The 2008 Beijing Olympics inspired many Chinese to get involved in physical exercise," Ma said. "The venue of the cycling competitions was in Yanqing. Now the district is home to more than 10,000 cyclists. That is the legacy of the Olympics."

China has pledged to have "300 million people involved in snow and ice sport events" while it is preparing for the winter Olympics, which means at least one-fifth of the country's population could benefit from the sports gala.

Ma told Xinhua that snow and ice sports were not very popular, even in north China, because of the high cost.

"After Beijing won its bid to host the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, things could change," he said.

Yanqing students from primary and middle schools began learning skiing and skating during their sports class in 2014. In 2016, about 8,000 students were covered by the project.

In the Vanke Shijinglong Ski Resort, about half an hour's drive from Xidazhuangke, students wearing ski shoes queue to listen to a coach telling them how to walk on snow. In the distance, 15 children slide swiftly down the hill.

Zhao Xinran, 11, is from Yanqing No. 2 Primary School. She started learning skiing two years ago.

"I really enjoyed the downhill journey, when I could try different techniques," she said. "Six of us will be chosen for a competition, and I want to be one of them."

Han Yining, also 11, is from Jingzhuang Primary School. She has come to the ski resort for the first time.

"My parents rejected my request to learn skiing several times in the past, saying that the sport was dangerous. Now, with my school teachers, I can finally come here," the girl said.

"If I work hard, maybe I can become a volunteer during the winter Olympics," she said.

Han is among 66 students, from the fourth to sixth grade, led by teacher Song Jinying to the ski class.

"In this way, we can cultivate children's interest in snow and ice sports, and build a bridge for them so that maybe in 2022 they have a chance to take part in the big event," Song said.

"The Winter Olympics is a good opportunity to popularize skiing among Chinese youngsters," said the 50-year-old teacher. "The government funds the training, and the ski resort provides services. Such a big project is beyond the capability of any single school."

Bi Chongming, general manager of Vanke Shijinglong Ski Resort, told Xinhua that it was a golden period for the ice industry, in which Vanke, a real estate developer, tied the knot with Shijinglong Ski Resort in early 2016.

"In the last snow season between Nov. 2015 and Feb. 2016, we received 80,000 visitors," Bi said. "This season the number is larger. We are considering building another ski resort in Yanqing."

Chang Guangchun's daughter is only nine months old, but her mother already has a plan for her.

"When I was pregnant, the doctor told me 'your kid is so energetic that they should do sports," Chang said. "Now she is learning swimming. I will have her learn skiing four years later and take her to watch the Olympic Games."

In her spare time Chang likes watching videos of alpine skiing.

"The skiers are so cool," she said. "Sports can make one brave and outgoing. I hope that my daughter can grow up like that."

Posted in: OLYMPICS

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