China’s ice and snow industry embraces boom ahead of 2022 Beijing Olympic Games

By Huang Ge Source:Global Times Published: 2018/1/23 18:13:39

A student from an amateur sports school takes skating training at a stadium in Hulun Buir city, North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region on January 6. Photo: VCG


China's ice and snow sports industry has been growing at an unprecedented pace in recent years, with the sector's scale expected to hit 1 trillion yuan ($156 billion) by 2025. Thanks to the fact that Beijing is going to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games and support from domestic industry policies, capital is flowing into the sector as many companies and institutions invest in ice-and-snow-related projects. But experts say that China is not yet on the top level in terms of winter sports and that the sector still faces many challenges, such as a lack of qualified coaches and snow sports management as well as lack of knowledge on how to popularize snow sports to attract more consumers. China's booming ice and snow sector is also bringing opportunities to foreign firms that are seeking growth in the country's winter sports market.

On a cold and foggy Saturday afternoon, Yang Lin, a 16-year-old high school student living in Beijing, steps onto an ice rink in Chaoyang district as usual.

She quickly puts on her skates and knee pads and freely skates around the rink. With guidance from a coach by her side, Yang starts to learn how to make turns on the ice.

But Yang is not the only one learning figure skating from private coaches. More than 15 other skaters, including kids and teenagers, are also gracing the rink to learn some new moves, along with others who are simply there for fun. 

"I was introduced to figure skating by my friend about a year ago and I come here for training once a week," Yang told the Global Times. "More and more of my classmates are taking up ice and snow sports, like speed skating and skiing," she said.

Ice and snow sports, which had been limited to a small group of people in previous years, are now enjoying increasing popularity among Chinese.

Thanks to the opportunity of China hosting the 2022 Winter Games, the country's ice and snow sports industry is embracing an unprecedented growing trend, experts noted.

Industry boom

The scale of China's ice and snow industry stood at 397.6 billion yuan ($62 billion) in 2017 and will continue to rise in the next three years, according to a white paper released by Tencent Sports and other institutions on January 16.

Ice and snow sports began to attract more attention in China after the country won its first Winter Olympic gold medal at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, US.

The sector has risen rapidly after a decade of development in China and will see further and fast growth by 2022 thanks to the driving power of the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympic Games, experts noted.

The number of ice rinks and skiing venues in China will increase from 200 and 500 in 2015 to 650 and 800 by 2022, respectively, the white paper said, noting that about 300 million Chinese will be participating in winter sports by 2022.

"Our rink has been gaining increasing popularity in recent years and more and more young people are likely to learn figure skating," said an employee at an ice rink in a shopping mall of Beijing's Chaoyang district who preferred to remain anonymous.

The employee also told the Global Times on Sunday that "the rink has more than 20 private coaches for skating and learners range from six-year-old kids to teenagers."

Each private class of figure staking that lasts 90 minutes costs between 150 yuan and 280 yuan, she said.

More opportunities

Capital is flowing into China's winter sports industry and a relatively complete industrial chain has already been set up, Ji Ning, CEO of Beijing-based Vning Sports Group Co, told the Global Times on Sunday.

An increasing number of domestic companies and sports institutions have marched into the sector and made investments in ice and snow tourism, sports equipment and ski parks, Ji said.

For example, Beijing-based ORG Packaging Co announced in May 2017 it was planning to set up an ice hockey venue with international standards in Beijing, with the aim of organizing training for ice hockey enthusiasts, holding matches and developing sports derivative products.

The upcoming Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games will not only boost China's ice and snow industry, but also bring more opportunities to foreign firms that seek growth in the domestic winter sports market, said Zhang Jiayuan, a partner specializing in sports investment at Beijing-based Ransenhuizhi Investment Fund Management Co.

Foreign companies in the domestic market will have more opportunities to become involved in the construction of sports infrastructure and the development of tourism that features ice and snow before the Beijing Winter Olympic Games, Zhang told the Global Times on Monday.

Foreign-branded winter sports equipment, such as skis and sports suits, is favored by Chinese consumers, Zhang said, adding that more foreign enterprises related to snow sports will benefit from the Chinese market in the near future.

As China's technology and equipment for producing ice and snow has become better with relatively lower costs recently, the country's ice and snow industry hotspot has begun to move from northeastern provinces to northern China, namely Beijing, North China's Hebei Province and Tianjin, Ji noted.

Also, many ice and snow entertainment activities are set to appear in Guangzhou and Shenzhen, South China's Guangdong Province, said Ji.

People in southern China also have strong demand for the ice and snow market, but that demand hasn't been satisfied in the past due to restrictions on natural resources, experts said, noting that the southern China market has great growth potential.

Challenges persist

The scale of China's ice and snow sector is expected to hit 1 trillion yuan by 2025, according to an ice and snow sports development plan unveiled by the General Administration of Sport (GAS) in November 2016.

The target is not a small number and many challenges still persist as China is not on the top level in terms of winter sports quality, experts noted.

The primary challenge for China's winter sports sector is the lack of qualified coaches and sports management, Ji said, noting that domestic skiing parks are expected to train more professional coaches and improve management as the industry aims to reach the 1 million yuan scale target.

He Wenyi, executive director of Peking University's China Institute for Sports Value, said that popularizing ice and snow sports is important as the rising Chinese middle class is able to afford to partake, but what matters is that those people should know how to actually play such sports.

Ji agreed, saying that consumption cannot continue if consumers just want to have a one-time experience and do not know how to properly engage in the sports and enjoy themselves.

Also, more ice and snow entertainment activities such as snowball fighting and ice dragon boats should be created to attract more people to winter sports, He told the Global Times on Monday.

China's internet titan Tencent Holdings and the Beijing Organising Committee for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games jointly launched an ice and snow plan on January 15, aiming to raise awareness of ice and snow sports via efforts to combine such elements as competitions, venues, athletes and industry, reported.

Tencent has already collaborated with several global leading institutions such as the North America-based National Hockey League to bring in high-quality games to create a popular ice and snow culture in China, the report said.

Teenagers in particular are a large target group that will participate in ice-snow sports in the future, said He.

According to GAS, China plans to work out a teaching guideline for ice and snow sports in schools by the end of 2018 and to have more than 2,000 schools that prominently feature winter sports by the year 2020.

Newspaper headline: Winter sports wonderland


blog comments powered by Disqus