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Young and old, China warms up for Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games

NOV . 25 2021
Peking University, November 25: The music video for Chinese singer Jackson Yee's "Together for a Shared Future," also the official motto for the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games, was released on Monday. In the video produced by Beijing Radio & Television Station, Yee, a popular star among young people, takes viewers on a tour to show the enthusiasm of Chinese people as they prepare for the upcoming global sports event. Ordinary people of various ages and from all walks of life practice winter sports such as skating and ice hockey, or use their skills in traditional handicrafts such as paper cutting and embroidery to add color to the sports event. Their actions demonstrate that the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games, a sports event for everyone, will welcome friends from every corner of the world.

Jackson Yee in the music video Photo: Courtesy of Beijing Radio & Television Station

A Beijing student plays ice hockey. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Starting young

Practicing curling on real ice is part of the  routine exercise for students with a passion for winter sports at the Dianchang Road Primary School in Beijing's Shijingshan district.

The primary school founded its own curling team in December 2020. It prepared a real ice rink for more than 300 students at the school, so that young curlers in different classes can all have the opportunity to take part in the sport on the ice as well as off the ice. 

While practicing at the rink is more "exciting" for students, before they step onto the ice they must first train in various sets of "on the ground" versions of winter sports during classes held by the school.

"I feel that training on ice is more exciting, and makes me think more about what I learn every day with the PE tutor on the playground," Xiaobai, a student at the school, told the Global Times.

The school established its "2+8+5" winter sports training plan to bring some diversity to its traditional "running, jumping and throwing" focused PE classes for primary students.

The "2" section of the plan ensures all 390 children at the school are offered at least two opportunities every semester to train "on ice" or "on snow," while the "8+5" refers to the 13 sports, such as ice hockey and cross-country skiing, they can choose from - five sports played on actual ice and eight ice sports adapted to the "dry" ground.  

"We wanted to create an environment for them to 'get a feel for' these winter sports," said Xue, the principal of the school. 

From 7:10 to 7:50 am and 4:00 to 4:30 pm, the playground is organized into different areas for students to practice skiing, running lanes and ice hockey. The students are fully equipped just as they would be if they were taking part in the events for real.

"My favorite sport is cross-country skiing. I love the excitement that skiing brings to me. I'm not afraid of falling down because my coach said she did too," said Lu Jianing, a 10-year-old girl who plans to take part in some junior ski competitions in 2021.

The school located in Beijing's first Olympic Winter Games community - Gaojinglu - also wants students to learn about the culture of the Olympic Games, including its spirit and symbolism.

It has a 60-square-meter Winter Olympic-themed museum in the school, which includes handicrafts, creative paintings and sculptures and photographs made by students to describe what the "Winter Olympics" means to them.

Two Beijing students have fun curling. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Power of winter sports

Young Chinese people have been increasingly enthusiastic about winter sports in recent years, according to a report that shows the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games have ignited young people's interest in winter sports.

The report on young Chinese's participation in winter sports in 2021 said that more than 30 percent of young people who are at college have taken up a winter sport and nearly 50 percent have a deeper understanding of winter sports, the China News Service reported in October.

University students are the main force of young people taking up winter sports. Many Chinese universities have established their own curling teams that consist of students from different majors. Peking University is an example, whose team is made up of amateur sports enthusiasts.

Peking University's curling team won the championship at the Third Capital College Students' Curling Championships in November 2020. A congratulation letter was published on the university's website, which also introduced the team's members.

Xie Xiaoqiao, leader of the team, said after the competition that "when you have a really tight team and come up against really good opponents, you feel lucky to play against them. Maybe this is the charm of competitive sports. It teaches me how to win and lose, how to make friends and how to play against opponents."

Xie represents the voice of many young people who have become enamored of winter sports.

Hao Ziliang, 24, was a goalkeeper on a soccer team before he joined the ice hockey team at Renmin University of China, the China News Service reported.

Having played sports for years, Hao said ice hockey injected fresh excitement for sports into his life and that he has also made more friends while at the ice rink.

A girl skis down a slope. Photo:  VCG

Skiing with farmers

Lang Enge is now leading a ski team made up of farmers in his hometown, a village in the Yanqing District, one of three competition areas for the Beijing Olympic Winter Games in 2022. The 25-member team with an average age of 30 years old mainly consists of local farmers like Lang. These farmers are no strangers to winter sports, though. Every year thousands of students come here to take ski classes from them.

Before becoming a professional skiing coach, Lang was a shepherd, and before that he was a corn farmer. However, that all changed in 2016.

In 2015, Beijing, with Zhangjiakou, North China's Hebei Province, winning the right to host the Olympic Winter Games, Lang's hometown, a village called Zhangshanying in Yanqing, a Beijing suburb 130 kilometers away from the city, was later chosen as the location for the alpine ski, bobsleigh and luge events due to its unique geographical advantages.

To host such a global event, one of the top priorities for the village was to protect the environment. So Lang's herd of more than 300 sheep had to go as it was a "pollution source" that damaged the grasslands, Lang told the Xinhua News Agency.

"There was a time when the herd of sheep would eat up all the grass wherever they went, which really damaged the environment."

In 2016, Lang sold his herd out of concerns for the environment.

"When I think about it now, it still hurts, but I don't regret it at all," he explained.

After moving from corn to sheep, it was now time for Lang to find another means to make a living. Seeing a career opportunity with the upcoming Winter Games, he decided to turn his ski hobby into a profession.

In the 1990s, Beijing built its first suburb ski arena in Yanqing, which benefited the local villagers, including Lang himself.

In July 2020, with the support of his friends, Lang established a ski team in Beijing mainly made up of  ski-loving farmers. They called themselves the Haituo Team, named after the local Haituo Mountain.

To strengthen their professional skills, the team went to Switzerland to undergo professional training. Eleven members of the team passed and earned instructor certificates, making them the first professional "farmers' ski team" in Beijing.

In winter 2021, the team began to work with primary schools in Yanqing to carry out children's ski training classes.

An elderly man skates in Beijing. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Holding onto youth

There is a special ice hockey team in Beijing made up of more than 40 elderly men. With an average age of more than 60 years old, they call themselves the "1979 ice hockey team" because that was the year their original ice hockey dreams came to an end.

Most senior people in the group graduated from the Beijing Shichahai Sports School. Part of the ice hockey classes, they won the 6th Chinese National Ice Hockey League in 1978, but the following year classes were discontinued and the team disbanded, according to the Beijing Youth Daily.

In the more than four decades since then, Mei Tiantian, leader of the 1979 ice hockey team, never gave up the joys of playing ice hockey. His hobby even influenced his son, who was recruited for China's national ice hockey team.

After China successfully won its bid to host the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in 2015, Mei saw winter sports regain popularity around the country, so he called on former classmates and teammates at the sports school to reform the ice hockey team.

Expanding from nine members to its current more than 40 teammates, the team is attracting an increasing number of elderly people who are interested in playing ice hockey.

Every Wednesday and Saturday, the team holds practice games at the Beijing Olympic Ice Sports Center.

While on the ice at the Shichahai Ice Rink, the original members are transported back into the past as they relive their youth and now the fire of ice hockey burns even hotter in the hearts of these old "boys."

In Changchun, Northeast China's Jilin Province, a thousand of kilometers away from Beijing, a group of senior fans of ice hockey have also taken to the ice.

This senior ice hockey team was launched by a group of hockey fans in August 2015. Currently, the team has had 43 members, with the youngest 50 years old and the oldest 72.

Although the ice hockey gear, including helmets, chest protectors and gloves, weighs a considerable amount, these senior athletes are still able to gracefully glide over the cold glistening ice.

Winter sports has not only been a boon for their physical health, it has also reinvigorated their spirts, providing endless motivation.

Source: Global Times