Building a lasting legacy of excellence

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The roof of the National Speed Skating Oval for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics is currently under construction. The sleek long-track speed skating venue has been dubbed the 'Ice Ribbon' for the 22 light strands surrounding its exterior. [China Daily]

Four years into its preparations for hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics, Beijing is progressing well on all fronts, with an emphasis on legacy to further popularize winter sports beyond the two-week global showcase.

Even as the whole country rests and celebrates during the National Day holiday, a construction site in northern Beijing's Olympic park is bustling with builders and machinery working at full capacity installing the roof of the National Speed Skating Oval, one of 26 venues for the 2022 Games that will be held over three zones: Beijing downtown, its northwest Yanqing district and co-host city Zhangjiakou in Hebei province.

The sleek venue for long-track speed skating has been dubbed the "Ice Ribbon" for the 22 light strands surrounding its exterior.

Accommodating a 12,000-sqm ice surface, the venue has already taken shape and will be completed on schedule by the end of this year.

The speed skating oval is one of only two new permanent venues in the downtown zone, where 11 of the 13 total venues needed for hosting all ice sports in 2022 are existing facilities left from the 2008 Summer Olympics.

The other new facility being built is the Big Air slope for freestyle skiing and snowboarding events, in west Beijing's Shougang Industrial Park.

Reusing and transforming 2008 facilities, such as turning the Water Cube (which hosted swimming at the Summer Games) into a curling arena and repurposing Wukesong Arena (basketball in 2008) as a hockey stadium, reflects China's efforts to achieve a sustainable and economical 2022 Games, in line with the International Olympic Committee's reforms highlighted in the Olympic Agenda 2020 and New Norm proposals aimed at making future Games cost-effective, intelligent and green.

Yanqing and Zhangjiakou are preparing another 13 venues, including newly built projects and existing ski resorts, to host all eight Olympic snow sports.

The three clusters will be connected by a new high-speed railway, which will be completed by the end of this year as part of a coordinated development plan to boost tourism in the region.

With construction work nearing completion, all 26 venues for 2022 will be ready by next June. A World Cup skiing series stop, the first of 15 test events, is scheduled to be held in Yanqing's National Alpine Skiing Center in February.

Latest milestones of the preparatory work include the launch of official mascots for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games-respectively a panda in ice armor named Bing Dwen Dwen and a red lantern child called Shuey Rhon Rhon.

The unveiling of the mascots marked the beginning of a marketing blitz that is expected to reap impressive revenues for organizers to fund the Games.

The first batch of 2022 licensed products bearing images of the mascots, ranging from clothes and stationery to plush toys and handiwork, will be available at official merchandizing outlets across the country starting on Oct 5, according to the Games organizing committee.

"The launch of the mascots will generate even more interest for these Games, especially among young people," IOC president Thomas Bach said in a video message during a Beijing ceremony to introduce the mascots last month.

"Thanks to the great work of the Beijing 2022 organizing committee, China is on track to deliver green and clean Olympic Winter Games, showcasing a modern and innovative China to the world," Bach added.

As the biggest selling point of its bid, which won IOC votes over rival Almaty, Kazakhstan, in July 2015, China plans to build 650 skating rinks and 800 ski resorts by 2022, up from 334 and 738 respectively in June last year, to lay the foundation for a winter sports and recreation initiative aimed at involving 300 million people in the buildup to the Games.

"There are more and more sporting facilities in and around Beijing that are opening ahead of these Games where people can enjoy and practice winter sports," said Bach.

"Everywhere you go, you can feel the excitement and the anticipation that the 2022 Winter Olympic Games are already generating. This demonstrates that the legacy of the Games, spreading the joy and benefits of sport to all Chinese people, is already taking shape."

Meanwhile, Chinese organizers also see Games preparations as a trial for new technology and a solution for green urban and rural development.

The official legacy plan for the Games aims to optimize the operation of 2022 venues, implement stronger environmental protections and use more renewable energy to make the Olympics beneficial for the hosting regions beyond 2022.

Measures highlighted in the plan include building a 53-hectare forest reserve for transplantation of trees affected by construction of the alpine skiing center in Yanqing, using a carbon dioxide refrigeration system rather than Freon to make the National Speed Skating Oval more environmental-friendly and planning for all new venues' post-Games operations for recreational, catering and entertainment functions in advance.

"The preparations are ready to step up to the next stage, from planning to readiness. Beijing is ahead in the race against time," said Liu Yumin, director of the planning, construction and sustainable development department of the Games organizing committee.

To financially support the preparations, Beijing 2022 has signed nine domestic marketing partners and four second-tier sponsors, while the Games' licensing program, which was launched early last year, has contributed 257 million yuan ($36 million) in sales of more than 780 types of products with the Winter Games logo as of the first quarter this year.

The organizing committee also unveiled its plans for volunteer recruitment and training earlier this year.

International recruitment, which will be launched in December through an online system, aims to select 27,000 volunteers to directly serve the Games' operation, while another 80,000 or so will serve as city volunteers.

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