China skis: Olympics brings on boom in winter sports

Jan 27, 2022, 10:09 PM | Updated: Jan 28, 2022, 7:08 pm
A local resident hired as a cleaner for a traditional courtyard house turned into lodging for touri...

A local resident hired as a cleaner for a traditional courtyard house turned into lodging for tourists, inspects one of the rooms in Houheilong Miao, a village in Yanqing on the outskirts of Beijing, China, Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022. The village has a view of the Olympics skiing venue in the distance. Its 20 mostly vacant traditional courtyard houses have been turned into lodgings and a cafe dubbed the "Winter Olympic Home." (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

BEIJING (AP) — Holding his skis beside a bunny slope, Li Wei enthuses over his winter job as a farmer-turned-ski coach on the northwestern outskirts of Beijing.

The tall, tanned 36-year-old works December to March at a resort in the Yanqing district, which will host skiing, luge and other sliding events at the Winter Olympics, which open next week.

The ruling Communist Party is using the Games to promote winter sports, many of which are new to most Chinese, for fitness and business opportunities.

Skiing “boosted my income to another level,” said Li, who charges 400 to 500 yuan ($60 to $80) per lesson — almost as much as his family earns in a week growing corn during warmer months. He also finds skiing relaxing.

“After a few slides down the intermediate slope, all my troubles are gone,” he said.

Many in Beijing have long enjoyed winter ice skating on canals and lakes. But now, young Chinese are expanding their aspirations from basketball, football and gymnastics to sports such as hockey and skiing.

The government and private companies have built ice rinks and ski runs. Public schools are adding skating and other winter sports. Parents are opening their wallets to pay for hockey teams and skating lessons. Villages near ski slopes are building inns to serve well-heeled tourists.

“I want to be an ice hockey player in the future,” said 8-year-old Guo Yuchen, who took up the sport at 4 and trains seven hours a week at a rink in Beijing. “Then I can bring glory to my country.”

Wu Mengkai, 11, said hockey made him more extroverted and a “very sunny person.”

“You can’t be introverted when you play ice hockey,” Wu said. “You have to be brave enough to fight.”

The buildup to the Winter Olympics set these trends in motion, said Mark Dreyer, author of the book “Sporting Superpower: An Insider’s View on China’s Quest to Be the Best.”

“We’ve also seen a more organic push from China’s middle class, recognizing the value of sports not just for their children, but for themselves,” Dreyer said.

The Winter Games will take place without foreign tourists or ordinary spectators under China’s “zero tolerance” strategy that aims to keep the virus out of the country. Athletes, reporters and officials are required to stay within areas that isolate them from general public.

Some 106 of the 3,695 people who arrived from abroad for the Games so far tested positive for the coronavirus. Two are athletes or team officials.

The Chinese capital has tightened anti-virus measures and ordered mass testing of some 2 million people in one district following outbreaks. Some families are barred from leaving their homes.

Foreign sports brands see growth opportunities in China but are frustrated that marketing and business development are hampered by the anti-virus controls and ban on most foreigners from entering China.

“That’s kind of put a damper on things,” said Jeffrey Potter, president of Proskatecorner Pte. Ltd., the China distributor of American hockey equipment maker True.

If not for the virus, the marketing boost from the Olympics would have been bigger, really helping the economy and making hockey more popular, Potter said in a video conference interview from Toronto.

At the Vanke Shijinglong Ski Resort, where Li teaches, visitor Long Xuelian said she fell in love with skiing on her first try despite taking many spills.

“More and more friends of mine know how to ski,” said Long, who was taking a break from skiing and chatting with her friend.

The resort’s visitor numbers have risen by 15% to 20% a year since Beijing and neighboring Zhangjiakou were awarded the Winter Games in 2015, according to its marketing manager, Liu Yingkai. Liu said numbers were up 40% last year, even with the pandemic.

Zhang Xiaodong grew up in Zhangjiakou but never learned to ski, so he’s taking up the sport as an adult. “I have to learn how to ski so when I bring my kid here next time, I’ll know how to teach my kid,” the IT engineer said.

At least 8,000 people in Beijing are on hockey teams, the Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily quoted Xing He, the deputy secretary general of the Beijing Ice Hockey Association, as saying.

“Matches are held more frequently, and school teams come here for training,” said Wang Yuming, general manager of the Star Hong-ao Ice Sports rink in western Beijing.

Nationwide, more than 450 ice rinks and 300 snow resorts have been built since 2015, though some have closed at times during the pandemic, said Li Sen, director of the Beijing Olympic organizing committee’s General Planning Department.

Skiing and other sports have given an economic boost to villages near resorts.

“For tourists to eat, there must be restaurants around,” said Jiang Xinwei of Analysys International, a research firm in Beijing.

Houheilong Miao, a village in Yanqing, has a view of the Olympics skiing venue in the distance. Its 20 mostly vacant traditional courtyard houses have been turned into lodgings and a cafe dubbed the “Winter Olympic Home.”

Wang Haifang, a mother of two, is among local residents hired to work as baristas, butlers and cleaners. She welcomed seeing the once-rundown village cleaned up like modern urban areas of Beijing.

“In the past year, everything got into shape,” she said.


Associated Press video producers Olivia Zhang and Caroline Chen contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


FILE - An Amazon Prime logo appears on the side of a delivery van as it departs an Amazon Warehouse...
Associated Press

Amazon to hold holiday shopping event in October

Amazon said Monday that next month it will hold a second Prime Day-like shopping event, making it the latest major retailer to offer holiday deals earlier this year to entice cautious consumers struggling with tighter budgets. During the Oct. 11-12 event, Amazon Prime members will get early access to discounted items. The “Prime Early Access […]
23 hours ago
FILE -Visitors walk across the Yalu River Broken Bridge, right, next to the Friendship Bridge conne...
Associated Press

Seoul says North Korea, China reopen freight train traffic

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea and China resumed freight train service Monday following a five-month hiatus, South Korean officials said, as the North struggles to revive an economy battered by the pandemic, U.N. sanctions and other factors. The reopening came after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un last month made a dubious claim […]
23 hours ago
Victoria Colson, 31, of Tampa loads sandbags into her truck along with other Tampa residents who wa...
Associated Press

Cuba prepares evacuations as strengthening TS Ian nears

HAVANA (AP) — Authorities in Cuba suspended classes in Pinar del Rio province and said they will begin evacuations Monday as Tropical Storm Ian was forecast to strengthen into a hurricane before reaching the western part of the island on its way to Florida. A hurricane warning was in effect for Grand Cayman and the […]
23 hours ago
The United Nations Security Council meets on the situation in Ukraine, Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022 at ...
Associated Press

Politics impede long-advocated growth of UN Security Council

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Virtually everyone involved agrees: Almost eight decades after it came into existence, the powerful U.N. Security Council needs to expand, to evolve, to include more voices. But as with so many things, the central question — and the biggest disagreement — is exactly how. Five countries that were major powers at […]
23 hours ago
FILE - Stewart Rhodes, founder of the citizen militia group known as the Oath Keepers speaks during...
Associated Press

From Yale to jail: Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes’ path

PHOENIX (AP) — Long before he assembled one of the largest far-right anti-government militia groups in U.S. history, before his Oath Keepers stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, Stewart Rhodes was a promising Yale Law School graduate. He secured a clerkship on the Arizona Supreme Court, in part thanks to his unusual life […]
23 hours ago
Amanda Rouser poses for a photo in front of a recruiting desk for new poll workers at Atlanta City ...
Associated Press

False claims, threats fuel poll worker sign-ups for midterms

ATLANTA (AP) — Outraged by false allegations of fraud against a Georgia elections employee in 2020, Amanda Rouser made a vow as she listened to the woman testify before Congress in June about the racist threats and harassment she faced. “I said that day to myself, ‘I’m going to go work in the polls, and […]
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.

Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
China skis: Olympics brings on boom in winter sports