North China's Heilongjiang riding on Winter Olympics momentum

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HARBIN, March 21 (Xinhua) -- One year has passed since the curtain fell on the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, but its effects are still being felt - if the 2023 Harbin Ice and Snow Expo is anything to go by.

The three-day Expo, which opened on Friday, featured over 3,000 kinds of winter sport products and 500 related companies from 19 countries and regions including Russia, France, Spain and Canada, both record highs in the Expo's history.

The huge enthusiasm of exhibitors from home and abroad reflects the rosy prospects of China's winter sports industry in the post-Olympics era, insiders say.

Thanks to the boom triggered by the home Olympics, Chinese people have embraced ice and snow events passionately during the past winter season, highlighted by bustling scenes at skating rinks, ski resorts and winter sports carnivals across the country.

Beijing, Hebei, Jilin and Heilongjiang had the most number of skiers, with Yabuli Ski Resort, three hours' drive from Harbin, having received over 195,000 visitors so far.

"Yabuli's powder snow is said to be good, so I came here for a ski tour," said Dai Meiling, a ski lover from China's southern Guangdong Province.

Yabuli is not a lone case that showcases the huge market potential for China's ice and snow industry.

The Snow Town Resort, once a forest farm in Heilongjiang located 280 kilometers from Harbin, is famous for its stunning snow views and long snow season which can last up to seven months. More than 300,000 people have visited the Snow Town Resort since its opening in December last year, according to resort manager Wen Guoliang.

Ren Xiaotong, a senior official at Yabuli Sunshine Resort International Mountain Sports College, said that the significant rise in the number of Chinese people learning to ski is a continued legacy of the 2022 Winter Olympics, as well as the result of improving standards of living.

"More and more Chinese are itching to try their hand at skiing, such as tourists from Shanghai, Guangzhou and other places. It has boosted our confidence in future development," Ren said.

In the 1950s, schools in Heilongjiang were encouraged to build ice rinks and develop ice sports. As a result, ice sports teams were established throughout the province, with teams from Harbin and Qiqihar dominating national hockey competitions over the decades.

With winter sports' profile already at an all-time high in China, the country's sports authorities are pushing for greater participation in ice and snow activities.

"We should explore new paths for popularizing winter sports in schools across China and provide more professional guidance and services for young enthusiasts," Gao Zhidan, director of the General Administration of Sport of China, said on the sidelines of the first session of the 14th National People's Congress earlier this month.

According to a government plan, 5,000 schools across China are expected to include winter sports in their curriculums by the end of 2025.

As part of the efforts to foster younger ski talents, Yabuli Ski Resort has announced to offer people living in Heilongjiang under the age of 18 free access to its pistes and skis for March.

According to Xie Fang, an official at Harbin Sports Bureau, Heilongjiang is considering the likelihood of bids for international winter sports events.

"Bidding and hosting large-scale sport events can stimulate consumption, facilitate the development of the service sector and enhance Harbin's global reputation," said Xie. Enditem

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