Reporter's log: Winter Olympics boost Chongli's growth

By Zhang Jiaqi
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, November 28, 2019
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People enjoy the snow at a resort in Chongli, Jan. 1, 2019. [Photo/VCG]

I visited Chongli, the host to all skiing and biathlon events at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics last week, together with 50 government officials and senior managers from 26 developing countries in Africa, Asia, and North and South Americas. Before the trip, I didn't expect the previous nationally designated poor county would develop on such a fast track flattened by the Winter Olympics.

During a trip to a renovated village there on Nov. 20, the 70-year-old Hou Guisheng showed us the old adobe house that he lived for decades and moved out of a month ago. The adobe on the foot of the exterior wall already fell off, and irregular stone bricks in the higher wall peeped from the cracks. A scratch of the window frame with fingernails would leave some wood chips inside, and part of a stained glue-bonded window glass was missing.

We were greeted by 60-year-old Gao Junsheng, Hou's fellow villager, who walked across the street to invite us to his new house when he saw us. With larger windows, a tiled floor and a higher ceiling, the steel-and-concrete house looks safer, brighter, cleaner and more spacious.

Gao is happy and grateful for getting the two-bedroom house for free. The month after his family moved into the new house, he opened a grocery store in the gate house, which is bringing in over 2,000 yuan (US$284) a month. In the lovely smiles and glows on his face, I can feel the sense of gain in Gao's heart.

I thought that would be all about the poverty alleviation story, but when I stepped into more space in the yard, I was surprised by the local government's foresight to lead its people towards a better life. If we say Chongli got the historical opportunity of the Winter Olympics relying on its natural endowment like cold temperatures in winter and mountainous landscape with proper slopes, I can see that after getting it, the district is making good use of the opportunity to develop its economy and lift its people out of poverty.

Now, the village committee is encouraging the villagers to turn their houses into homestays for tourists, looking to develop a new industry of the village. In a spare warehouse in his yard, Gao has set up a dining space for tourists.

He told me he just received some tourists before we came. With the improved roads in and around the village and future highway and high-speed railway between Beijing and Chongli being built for the Winter Olympics, he expects to see more tourists in the village in the future.

Over the four years since Beijing's successful bid to host the Winter Olympics, Chongli identified its poor people accurately, gave them financial and project support and helped them find jobs, decreasing the number of its poor population from 24,000 to 37.

"If there were no Winter Olympics, Chongli would still have developed, like many places without the games did, though it would not be developing as fast as it is now," Wang Sizhou, deputy secretary of Chongli's Party committee, said.

Chongli is actually practicing a new type of consumer spending-oriented urbanization supported by a modern service industry – the ski industry, Zhang Jianchen, strategic development director of the Emerging Markets Institute at the Beijing Normal University, shared with me his insight.

If comparing the ski industry of Chongli to a snowball, then the snowball is getting bigger and bigger now on the fast track of the Winter Olympics.

People enjoy the snow at a resort in Chongli, Nov. 17, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

According to statistics, during the 2014-2015 ski season before Beijing won the Olympics bid, Chongli sold more than 360,000 ski tickets. When it came to the 2018-2019 snow season, the district sold around 1.08 million ski tickets — three times of the pre-bidding season — and the figure is expected to reach nearly 2 million by 2022.

Now, there are already seven ski resorts in Chongli, four of which rank in the top 10 in China. Moreover, there are hundreds of hotels and inns in Chongli, and restaurants, hotels as well as ski clothing and equipment shops line one next to another along the streets, many of whose name include the word "snow." The façade of some buildings are snow-playing cartoon scenes, and an ice and snow museum has also been built up, adding more cultural flavor to the industry.

The growth of the industry is not to stop when the Winter Olympics end. Instead, with the potential energy it accumulates on the go, Chongli's snowball will continue expanding, if proper moves followed.

With the experience of hosting freestyle ski and snowboard events at the 2022 Winter Olympics and the improving intercity transportation, the Genting Resort Secret Garden, one of seven ski resorts in Chongli, is confident in future development, its public relation officer Zhang Qiong said.

Moreover, the ski resorts in Chongli are all trying to develop themselves into all-season ones, through measures like organizing summer camps and hosting sports events, and look to tap more potential of growth and seek for more sustainable development.

The Chinese government is also planning for the industry's long-term development. According to the 2016-2025 ice and snow industry development plan, China expects to have 50 million people participated into ice and snow sports directly, and develop its ice and snow industry into a scale of 600 billion yuan by 2020 and one trillion yuan by 2025.

Moreover, the Ministry of Education released the guiding opinions on popularizing ice and snow sports on primary and middle school campuses together with three other government departments this May, and primary and middle schools in different places around the country are responding the document with diverse activities to get more students participate in.

Zhang expects to see Chongli with a sound development in 10 years' time. One of the international students Ozobia Samuel Davies, public relation officer of Rokel Commercial Bank of Sierra Leone, also has a similar expectation that Chongli will develop 10 years from now into far more than what it is today.

Continuous investment and input of human capital will produce a multiplier effect that allows Chongli to remain as a popular destination for investors to come around after the Winter Olympics, Davies gave his analysis.

With improving transportation, motivated companies and a new generation of participators, Chongli and its ice and snow industry look to embrace a brighter future, but so far, the fast-growing industry just took off not long ago, leaving people, including me, a huge space for imagination. Before the trip, I look forward to be in the district in two years' time for the Winter Olympics; now, after the trip, I have two more wishes: The short-term one is to have a try of skiing here, and the long-term one is to visit Chongli in 10 years to see where it will be by then.

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