Cooperation on winter sports boosts ties between China and Finland

By Lu Wenao Source:Global Times Published: 2019/10/29 18:43:41

Cooperation on sports boosts bilateral ties

Exhibition stands of Finnish companies are seen at the World Winter Sports Expo in Beijing on October 17. Photo: VCG

The winter season is once again dawning in China, but this year's winter is expected to be more dazzling.

Finland, a Scandinavian country 5,900 kilometers northwest of  China, is getting closer to China, as it is in a theme year of winter sports with the world's most populous country.

"In Finland, we take sports as a part of our culture," Hanna Kosonen, Finland's Minister of Science and Culture, told the Global Times. 

"We use a lot of science to understand sports and contribute in high-level sports and also in normal physical activities." 

The wide popularity of winter sports in Finland, where skiing is one of the country's defining winter sports is evident with the 167 medals the Finnish have won at the Winter Olympics, 105 more than that of China. 

"Kids in every school in Finland, they have physical activity one hour for every school day," noted Kosonen, a former ski orienteering world champion. 

"We have learned that there are science methods that it can build a better condition and also skills to learn. And also it provides better possibilities to get to higher education as well."

She noted that Finnish people have learned how to exercise and develop a sustainable lifestyle in the long winter season, as "winter sports provide us with an opportunity to appreciate nature and exercise."

Finland is widely cooperating with China on winter sports, as the country aims to build a strong 300 million winter sports program for enthusiasts by 2022, when Beijing will become the first city to host both Summer and Winter Olympics.

Hanna Kosonen Photo: Lu Wenao/GT

Sustainable cooperation

For a country like Finland whose winter sports facilities are well-­established, sustainability is vital in developing the industry.

"It's important [to keep sustainable] in every corporation and every business area nowadays, because climate change is a huge problem in the whole world, and we have to solve it together," ­Kosonen said. 

Nature is often delicate in the places where people do winter sports, ­especially when it comes to ski which often takes place in remote mountain areas.

"We have to use our environment resources well. If we don't do that, there will be a big problem," Kosonen said. 

"We have to keep it well and choose the most environmental friendly solutions through different techniques."

Bilateral benefits

After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the ­country's first presence at an Olympics was in the capital of Finland, Helsinki, which hosted the 1952 Summer Olympic Games. 

Inspired by the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics, the winter sports sector is growing fast in China.

Jarno Syrjala, Finland Ambassador to China, told the Global Times that both countries could benefit from the cooperation process.

Finland's rich experience in winter sports has cultivated in many aspects, including equipment, technology and winter sports tourism.

"We have our own abilities, and China can offer Finland to go to a scale from construction world. Also China is really good in training, like speed skating and figure skating," he said. 

"There is a strong interest toward winter sports, everybody is building a new kind of winter sports culture and we want to be part of that journey."

He noted that information sharing on winter sports will also boost bilateral ties.

"The equipment and services that are produced here is becoming more and more important also globally," Syrjala told the Global Times. 

"There are a lot of efforts spent on the research and development in China when it comes to winter sports: new techniques and new equipment," he said. "It's important that we exchanged information and stay in touch. Both sides benefit from this." 

A Chinese-initiated skiing competition is expected to be "exported" to Finland this year, as Syrjala said Finland is "happy" to see China get onboard.

"Skiing competition in Finland is a very traditional thing. We are very happy that it has been also taken onboard here in China," he said. 

The Alpine ski orienteering race will be held annually for five years at the Suomu ski resort, also known as the Arctic Circle ski resort, in Lapland in northern Finland.

Extended efforts

Finland has dominated ice hockey this year, as their men's team won the world championship while the women's team reached the world championship final at home.

Several Chinese winter sports teams, including cross-country skiing and ice hockey teams, have set their training sessions to be held in Finland, with some of the teams' coaching staff coming from the Scandinavian country.

"Our relations in winter sports are at all-time high," said Kosonen. 

"This thematic year is an important stepping-stone towards the Beijing Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2022, which has enabled us to build a solid foundation for our close ­cooperation on winter sports and provides a platform for sports activities and business opportunities also beyond 2022."
Newspaper headline: Winter links China and Finland

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