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Chinese winter sports industries boosted by Olympics bid

Updated: Mar 20,2015 3:18 PM     Xinhua

BEIJING — It’s been a snowy winter for Chongli, a small county about 200 kilometers northwest of Beijing, and for Zhai Yujia and her colleagues, the more snow the merrier — and richer.

Zhai, 20, began her job as skiing instructor in the Genting Skiing Resort of Chongli last year and has been enjoying skiing on the piste. “The job helps me find my career goal,” said Zhai, who started skiing four years ago.

“During the skiing season, I can earn more than twice,” said Zhai.

Zhai and most of her colleagues are from nearby villages. The booming skiing market in the small county, especially after Beijing and north China’s Zhangjiakou announced a joint bid for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in 2013, has freed them from farming and provides local people with more career options.

Chongli county of Zhangjiakou area will play host to most of the snow events if Beijing and Zhangjiakou win the bid. And the bid, against Kazakhstan’s Almaty, has already brought changes to the small town with a population of 120,000.

According to Li Li, an official of Chongli county, the first skiing piste in Chongli was built in 1996 by some ski lovers. She recalled that the skiing field was lamentably weak and primitive and could only take a few visitors.

But now, Chongli has become one of the top skiing resorts in China after years of hard work, boasting of 82 skiing pistes that total 69 kilometers and attract millions of skiers from Beijing, Shanghai and other parts of China.

The Genting Skiing Resort, Li said, is a milestone in Chongli’s skiing industry and even in China as it can be regarded as a world-class ski resort with an expected total investment of 10 billion yuan in 10 years

“The Genting Resort was designed by a group of experts who designed the snow venues of the Vancouver Olympics and Sochi Olympics, so the existing venues are of high-quality and future expansion can also be reliable,” Li said.

“As Chongli has become a possible Olympic venue, the visitors’ number is expected to rocket in the next skiing seasons,” she added.

According to another county official Xue Liang, during the past 10 years, skiing has created more than 15,000 direct and indirect jobs in Chongli county.

Since 2001, the annual Chongli International Skiing Festival has been held in the small county with participants around the world. The 14th edition of the festival opened on Nov 8, 2014 and will end on April 5, 2015.

“The snow is good, the skiing piste is nice,” said Filip Zgodava, a Slovakian who competed in the FIS Alpine Skiing Points Race in Genting Skiing Resort.

Many visitors have their first try on snow which means opportunities for skiing instructor Zhai.

“Most visitors need coaching,” said Zhai, adding that “we are very busy during winter, especially during holidays”.

Song Zhiyong, principal of Genting Skiing School, said there are about 100 skiing coaches, a more than 70 percent increase from that of 2010.

“Most of the newly recruited coaches are from Chongli county,” said Song. “Many young people from local villages learned skiing and gained coach certificate, trying to have a slice of the skiing market.”

According to Song, the price of three-hour coaching during normal days cost 580 yuan ($93) while the holiday price is 700 yuan ($112).

“The country is inspiring more and more people to play winter sports. If we can have a Winter Olympics on home soil, it will become a golden opportunity to boost winter sports in every dimension, including government’s support, competitive results and also the skiing market,” said Yi Jiandong, a sports industry analyst.