Beijing 2022 offers ‘perfect opportunity’ for N. Europe to enhance winter sports exchanges with China
Published: Feb 16, 2022 08:08 PM
An athlete competes during the women's slopestyle qualification at the 2022 Winter Olympics on February 14, 2022. Photo: VCG

An athlete competes during the women's slopestyle qualification at the 2022 Winter Olympics on February 14, 2022. Photo: VCG

The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics has provided "fantastic opportunities" for northern European countries such as Finland, Denmark and Iceland - some of which are regarded as home to a range of incredible winter sports - to enhance winter sports communication with China and broaden the scope of bilateral cooperation, business representatives and officials told the Global Times.

With 300-million winter sports lovers in China, northern European companies have displayed keen interest in tapping business opportunities in China, in addition to providing technical equipment and solutions to the construction of Beijing Olympics venues. Some envision great potential for further cooperation in energy-efficient and green-energy technologies as well as tourism exchanges.

"Iceland has a lot to offer to those in China interested in winter sports, so does China, and we can learn from each other," William Freyr Huntingdon-Williams, deputy head of mission at the Embassy of Iceland in Beijing, told the Global Times on Wednesday, adding that the Winter Olympics will provide good opportunities for different and far-flung countries to meet and get to know each other´s sports activities. 

Team Iceland sent five athletes to participate in skiing events at the 2022 Beijing games, and Huntingdon-Williams said those athletes will "benefit immensely from their short time in Beijing."

Marko Tiesmäki, the China director of Business Finland, told the Global Times that several Finnish companies had been involved in the Olympic venue construction, as well as hosting the Chinese national teams receiving training in Finland and sponsoring the Chinese national teams. Finnish coaches also work for different Chinese national teams.

As of Wednesday, Finland ranked No.17 in the table of medals, with one gold medal in the bag. Norway, a winter sports powerhouse, has dominated the Winter Olympics medals list with 12 gold medals as of Wednesday. 

Deepening cooperation 

The year of 2019 was a winter sports theme year for Finland and China, which had broad exchanges in the winter sports industry that year, with over 60 related events being held. Winter sports cooperation between the two countries has been on a fast track since then, and the holding of the Winter Olympics in Beijing has unfolded a new chapter in cooperation. 

According to Tiesmäki, winter sports in Finland are not only sports, but also a way of life for Finns. Consequently, the country's know-how of winter sports as a whole is one of the best in the world.

Photo: VCG

Photo: VCG

"Finnish training expertise can help the Chinese winter sports practitioners to learn more. Finland also has advantages in refrigeration, and energy-efficient and green-energy technologies for winter sports venue construction, while China has a huge consumer market for winter sports, and ice and snow tourism," Tiesmäki said, highlighting great potential for broader cooperation. 

Simon Lichtenberg, the chairman of the Danish Chamber of Commerce in China, told the Global Times on Wednesday that machines from famous Danish company Danfoss have been integral in the process of creating snow during the Olympics. 

Other smaller Danish companies, such as Leaf Digital, have been working with Chinese high-tech firm Tencent, he said.

Denmark sent its biggest-ever Winter Olympics squad to the Beijing 2022 games, with 62 athletes competing on the ice and snow in five sports. 

Business group representatives also pointed out that China is enhancing its leisure sector quickly, and winter sports and outdoor activities in general will see rapid growth in the coming years, which will be attractive to northern European companies. 

"The recent introduction of Icelandic clothing brand Icewear is a good example. There are also several Icelandic firms interested in engaging with the growing Chinese consumer market via e-commerce platforms," Huntingdon-Williams said.

Alongside winter sports, northern Europe countries, renowned for spectacular, otherworldly scenery and weather in the world, could also become a hot destination for winter tourism after the pandemic eases, observers said. 

"Anyone in China who has an inkling for winter sports will appreciate the different snow-and-ice adventures available in Iceland," Huntingdon-Williams said, adding that Chinese tourists not only appreciated the more temperate months of summer, but also in the colder months of winter - which are characterized by ice and snow, winter storms and the beautiful Northern Lights (aurora borealis).