*One year after Beijing successfully hosted the Olympic Winter Games, Chinese people have shown consistent enthusiasm towards winter sports and the Games has brought on lasting benefits in economic and social aspects.
*Venues in Beijing and Zhangjiakou are open to the public, offering a variety of winter sports activities for people to experience Olympic-standard ice rinks and skiing tracks.
*Following China's best-ever performance in a single Winter Olympics at Beijing 2022, Chinese athletes have big ambitions towards the 2026 Games in Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo.
BEIJING, Feb. 4 (Xinhua) -- Wearing a sweet smile on her face, Zhang Liling glided forward, putting one foot in front of the other on the ice rink at the National Speed Skating Oval in Beijing, a 2022 Winter Olympic venue known as the "Ice Ribbon."
The six-year-old, who took up figure skating two years ago, practices jumps and spins three times a week. "Dancing on the ice in a beautiful costume makes me really happy," she said.
One year after Beijing hosted the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, enthusiasm among Chinese people for winter sports shows no sign of abating, and the Games' legacy has created lasting benefits for local communities.
People enjoy skating at the National Speed Skating Oval in Beijing, China on Jan. 30, 2023. (Xinhua/Ju Huanzong)
CONTINUED USE OF BEIJING 2022 FACILITIES
To celebrate the anniversary of the 2022 Winter Olympics, a public speed skating competition was held at the Ice Ribbon on Saturday, attracting around 100 amateur skaters of all ages. As a unique feature, the winners were entitled to sign their names on the wall of honor at this Olympic venue.
According to Wu Xiaonan, head of the National Speed Skating Oval's operation team, nearly 210,000 visits have been paid to the venue since it was opened to the public in July last year.
"We are delighted to see more people get involved in winter sports, share the Olympic legacy, and create an even brighter future with our joint efforts," said Wu.
People practice curling at National Aquatics Center in Beijing, China on Feb. 1, 2023. (Xinhua/Ju Huanzong)
The National Aquatics Center, dubbed as the "Ice Cube" during the 2022 Winter Games, is simultaneously being used for both elite-level sport and tourism purposes.
"I've waited for the Ice Cube to open for a long time," said a citizen surnamed Xiao, who lives in a nearby community. "I don't have to take an hour-long bus ride to the suburbs for curling anymore. The facilities here are really fantastic."
People enjoy creative ice-and-snow activities at Big Air Shougang in Beijing, China on Jan. 15, 2023. (Xinhua/Ju Huanzong)
Big Air Shougang, a Beijing 2022 Games venue repurposed from a steel mill, has been turned into an outdoor sporting resort that operates year-round.
With the new snow season beginning in China, enthusiastic skiers and snowboarders have been eager to hit the slopes.
Photo taken on Feb. 2, 2023 shows the view of National Alpine Skiing Center in Yanqing District, Beijing, China. (Xinhua/Zhang Chenlin)
Visits to the National Alpine Skiing Center, which is located in the mountains of Beijing's Yanqing District and staged 11 Alpine skiing competitions during the 2022 Winter Games, have reached 30,000 since its opening in December last year.
"The mountain scenery along different levels of tracks provides amateur skiers with a hugely enjoyable experience," said 36-year-old skiing enthusiast Li Jia.
WINTER SPORTS SPUR DEVELOPMENT & SOCIAL BENEFITS
During this year's Spring Festival holiday, the Beijing-Zhangjiakou high-speed railway saw rising passenger numbers, with many heading to the ski resorts in Zhangjiakou's Chongli.
"In addition to Beijing residents, many passengers are skiing enthusiasts from southern areas such as Shanghai and Shenzhen," said Wang Xiaoyong, head of Qinghe Railway Station in Beijing.
Passengers take the Beijing-Zhangjiakou high-speed railway at Beijing North Railway Station in Beijing, China on Jan. 24, 2023. (Xinhua/Li Xin)
As expected, major ski resorts in the capital Beijing and neighboring Zhangjiakou were crowded during the seven-day Chinese New Year holiday.
"My colleagues and I worked eight to 10 hours every day during the Spring Festival," said Zhang Chunming, a ski instructor at Beijing's Jundushan Ski Resort. "The coaches were so oversubscribed that many beginners had to wait for over two hours for a lesson."
Thanks to various skiing and skating activities, Beijing's Yanqing District received around 758,000 tourist visits during this Spring Festival holiday, according to Ye Dahua, head of the Yanqing District government.
This "ski fever" is palpable around China. As of February 2, the three largest ski resorts in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region were visited by 217,200 people during this snow season, compared with 205,000 over the same period last year. In the meantime, consumption in the resorts has seen an even stronger comeback as this year's revenue reached over 70.91 million yuan (about 10.51 million U.S. dollars), up 128% from last year.
This aerial photo taken on Feb. 2, 2023 shows people enjoying themselves at the Harbin Ice and Snow World in Harbin, capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. (Xinhua/Wang Jianwei)
In northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, Harbin Ice and Snow World welcomed more than 30,000 winter sports enthusiasts per day during the week-long holiday. Ski resorts at Changbai Mountain in northeast China's Jilin Province also experienced a massive surge in arrivals.
A growing number of people in China's southern provinces, where ice and snow are rarely seen, have also shown their enthusiasm towards winter sports.
During the Chinese New Year holiday, the ski resort in Quanzhou County, south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, was packed with people eager to get the thrill of winter sports.
The booming interest for winter sports also fueled a lot of opportunities for businesses in related fields. Ski equipment and gear sales doubled year-on-year during January on JD.com, one of China's largest e-commerce platforms.
Children practice skiing at the Aoshan Ski Resort in Taibai County, northwest China's Shaanxi Province on Jan. 11, 2023. (Photo by Zou Jingyi/Xinhua)
Wang Linghua and his wife Long Jing were busy at work even on Chinese New Year's Eve at the Aoshan Ski Resort in Taibai County, northwest China's Shaanxi Province.
Wang said that many nearby villagers usually work at the Aoshan resort during the ski season and switch to farming when the snow season ends.
ON TRACK TO BECOMING A WINTER SPORTS POWER
There is little doubt that Chinese enthusiasm for winter sports is driven by stars of the Beijing 2022 Games like Gu Ailing and Su Yiming.
In Xinjiang's Shihezi City, six-year-old Nie Rongchen has been training on snowy slopes for at least 10 hours per week this winter. "My dream is to be selected into the national team just like my idol, Olympic champion Su Yiming," he said.
People have fun at the Silkroad Resort in Urumqi, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region on Jan. 25, 2023. (Xinhua/Hu Huhu)
2022 witnessed a string of breakthroughs for Chinese winter sports, as the host nation clinched nine gold, four silver and two bronze medals at the Winter Olympics, and topped the medal tally with 18 gold, 20 silver and 23 bronze medals at the Winter Paralympics.
With three years to go before the 2026 Winter Olympics, Chinese athletes including future stars in the making hope to follow in the footsteps of gold medalists Gu and Su.
In November last year, speed skater Ning Zhongyan claimed his first World Cup victory of the 2022-2023 season, winning the men's 1,000m in Heerenveen, the Netherlands.
Despite failing to make the podium at Beijing 2022, Ning has set his eyes on the 2026 Games in Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo. "Give me some time, luck is not far away from me," he said.
Fireworks illuminate the night sky during the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games at the National Stadium in Beijing, China on Feb. 4, 2022. (Xinhua/Li Ga)
China showed its depth of talent in curling as well, with the country's women curlers winning gold at the 31st Winter World University Games in Lake Placid, the United States.
"The Winter Universiade triumph was really a big boost to my confidence in the lead up to the 2026 Winter Games," said China's captain Han Yu. "I've become more mature."
(Video reporters: Lin Lin, Xia Zilin, Kong Xiangxin, Zhang Xiao, A Man, Ma Kai, Bai Zhiqiang, Liu Heyao, Sun Xiaoyu, Yang Xuan, Yang Fan, Qin Jing, Zhang Weihua; Video editors: Lin Lin, Li Qin, Zhu Cong, Liu Xiaorui) ■