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For the Games, Xi Ordered Up a Snow Sports Fever. Will it Last? – The New York Times

Follow our latest coverage of the 2022 Winter Olympics.

BEIJING — In the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, which has sweltering temperatures for much of the year, children are ditching their flip flops for skis and hitting the indoor slopes.

Out west, high up on the Tibetan Plateau, Qinghai Province has become an unlikely center for curling, the traditional Scottish sport known as “ice kettle” in Chinese.

Over in the northeastern province of Liaoning, a group of retired men gather every day in the winter to strap on helmets and hockey pads and face off on an outdoor ice rink.

Such scenes, once rare, are growing more common as the ruling Communist Party charges ahead with an ambitious campaign to transform China — large parts of which have never seen a single flake of natural snow — into a global winter sporting power.

The campaign was started in 2015 when China’s leader, Xi Jinping, pledged that the country, which had just won the right to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, would groom 300 million ice and snow sports enthusiasts by the time of the Games. Mr. Xi has made achieving sporting success a key pillar of his signature vision of a “Chinese dream,” a nationalistic promise of prosperity and rejuvenation for the country.

In a country where Mr. Xi’s words are often taken as gospel, many could have predicted what came next: almost overnight, brands, investors, local governments and the public raced to respond. Ski resorts and ice rinks mushroomed around the country. Elementary and middle schools rushed to create winter sports programs. Companies specializing in snow apparel and après-ski entertainment flooded in.

“It was like a rocket taking off, suddenly everything changed,” said Carol Zhang, 50, a figure skating coach in Shenzhen, a humid, subtropical city in China’s south. Ms. Zhang said the number of students she instructs has nearly tripled since 2015. “So many children want to do winter sports now,” she added.

Just weeks before the start of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, Chinese state media triumphantly proclaimed that Mr. Xi’s targets had been met. The country now has 654 full-sized ice rinks, 803 ski resorts and 346 million people who have “taken part in winter sports or related activities at least once,” the official news agency said.

Officials have said the number of people was calculated using a random sampling method. Some analysts have expressed skepticism about the figures, pointing to the vague definition of sports participants.

Still, there is little doubt that the campaign has made an impact. Ski resorts in China had more than 20 million skier days in the 2018-19 season, according to a recent industry report. A skier day is the equivalent of one lift ticket that is bought and used. That’s double the number in 2014 and about one-third the number of skier days in the United States during the same time. China is aiming to build a $157 billion snow sports market by 2025 — nearly as much as the global sports market was worth in 2020.

At resorts near Beijing, cars with Thule ski racks have begun appearing in parking lots. …….

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/15/world/asia/olympics-china-snowsports.html

Follow our latest coverage of the 2022 Winter Olympics.

BEIJING — In the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, which has sweltering temperatures for much of the year, children are ditching their flip flops for skis and hitting the indoor slopes.

Out west, high up on the Tibetan Plateau, Qinghai Province has become an unlikely center for curling, the traditional Scottish sport known as “ice kettle” in Chinese.

Over in the northeastern province of Liaoning, a group of retired men gather every day in the winter to strap on helmets and hockey pads and face off …….

Follow our latest coverage of the 2022 Winter Olympics.

BEIJING — In the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, which has sweltering temperatures for much of the year, children are ditching their flip flops for skis and hitting the indoor slopes.

Out west, high up on the Tibetan Plateau, Qinghai Province has become an unlikely center for curling, the traditional Scottish sport known as “ice kettle” in Chinese.

Over in the northeastern province of Liaoning, a group of retired men gather every day in the winter to strap on helmets and hockey pads and face off …….

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