2022 coming clearer into view

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A feast of world-class competitions and new resort attractions will offer plenty of chills and thrills this winter as China's preparations for the 2022 Olympics enter overdrive.

The hordes of visitors attending this week's World Winter Sports (Beijing) Expo 2019, which continues until Sunday, underlined the public's growing passion for ice and snow activities.

The annual four-day exhibition, initiated by the Beijing Olympic City Development Association and International Data Group in 2016, features artificial ice rinks, dry-surface skiing simulators and virtual-reality resort tours across an area of 30,000 square meters at the capital's National Convention Center.

Other winter warmers include the staging of the 2022 Games' first test event and the unveiling of new race courses, while China will increase its recruitment of foreign expertise for its burgeoning winter sports industry.

As the first of 15 Olympic test events scheduled through 2022, an International Ski Federation (FIS) Alpine World Cup meet will be staged at the newly built National Alpine Skiing Center in northwest Beijing's Yanqing district, from Feb 15-16.

The center on Xiaohaituo Mountain, which is the first facility in China to boast an Olympic-standard vertical drop of over 800 meters, is scheduled to be completed by the end of this month in time for the Cup event, which will feature men's downhill and super-G races.

With three seasons to go before the Winter Olympics begin, the FIS is pleased to report that the Beijing 2022 preparations "are very much on track".

"This is an exciting winter for the first official test event to take place here," FIS secretary-general Sarah Lewis said at the expo on Thursday.

"The World Cup is now over 50 years old and this is another historical milestone for the global series that we are truly excited about," added Lewis, who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee's 2022 coordination commission.

New Olympic facilities will also be unveiled this winter at Genting Resort Secret Garden, which will stage freestyle skiing and snowboarding at co-host city Zhangjiakou in Hebei province.

The construction of six new courses for halfpipe, slopestyle, ski cross, aerials, moguls and parallel giant slalom have been completed at Genting. Snow-making operations will follow to prepare for a series of international events, including freeski and snowboarding halfpipe World Cup meets and a FIS second-tier Intercontinental Cup event in ski cross.

Courses for ski cross, aerials, moguls will be introduced to the public this winter. In addition, the resort is also set to open a new hotel and apartments to accommodate more guests, as well as a new 4,000-sqm flat snow area for beginners and a refurbished children's play zone.

"With new courses to be introduced and tested by the world's best athletes, and some additional accommodation and entertainment facilities to offer, we promise to elevate the excitement at the resort to the next level," said Shu Wen, Genting's senior vice-president.

While preparing facilities for the Games, China is rolling out an ambitious national plan to transform the winter sports sector into a new pillar of economic growth. The nation also aims to involve 300 million people in ice and snow activities beyond 2022.

As a rookie competitor and organizer in the sector, the country is looking west to learn from winter sports powers in North America and Scandinavia.

The winter sports expo, which this year attracted 600 brands from over 20 countries, is helping bridge the supply-and-demand gap.

"As a late starter in winter sports, China is in desperate need of proven experience and expertise in developing the industry sustainably beyond 2022," said Gao Yunchao, deputy secretary-general of the Beijing Olympic City Development Association. "I am sure the panel discussions and speeches shared by world leaders in this area will give us a lot of insights."

As the expo's guest country of honor this year, Finland is keen to showcase how it is helping China develop athletes and improve its organization of snow events and resort operation, said Jarno Syrjala, Finnish ambassador to China.

"Finland has a lot to offer in the training of athletes, construction of facilities and organization of international events and is committed to cooperating with China to prepare for 2022 and beyond," he said.

Initiated by the two countries' top leaders in 2017, the China-Finland Year of Winter Sports was launched in January to roll out a series of exchanges, including a long-term training program for Chinese national teams at Finland's Vuokatti Olympic Training Center.

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