Winter sports put forward new upsurge of Sino-Finnish cooperation

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As the China-Finland Winter Sports Year is closing to an end, the sports sectors of the two countries have witnessed close cooperation in 2019 in many fields, including the preparations for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics and various sports activities.

Photo taken on Jan. 14, 2019 shows Chinese President Xi Jinping (2nd R) and his Finnish counterpart Sauli Niinisto (2nd L) attending the inaugural ceremony of the 2019 China-Finland Year of Winter Sports in Beijing. (Xinhua/Shen Hong)

After nearly two years of preparations, the China-Finland Winter Sports Year was officially kicked off in January in Beijing, with the closing ceremony staged this month in the Finnish city of Rovaniemi, located in the Arctic Circle as both hometown of Santa Claus as well as a holy land of winter sports.

Over the past year, both sides have carried out close sports cooperation through various activities in the preparations for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, winter sports, sports industry, mass sports, sports scientific research, and physical education.

At a press conference in Rovaniemi, Gao Zhidan, deputy director of the General Administration of Sports of China, said that during the theme year, the two sides organized a total of 62 activities, which was 20 more than the initially agreed number.

In the beginning of the theme year, Sampo Terho, Finland's then Minister of European Affairs, Culture and Sports, promised that Finland can provide help in coaching, building venues for winter sports, sports technology, manufacturing sports equipment and teaching physical education.

Accordingly, in the 2018-2019 sport season, a total of 389 Chinese athletes participated in training and tournaments in Finland, and eight Finnish coaches are hired by China to train its teams of snowboard, Nordic combined, curling and ski jumping.

The theme year was not only an exchange between the sports sectors of China and Finland, but also laid foundations for industrial cooperation between the two countries.

Liu Fumin, director of the Department of Sports Economics of the General Administration of Sport of China, said that the two sides have carried out a number of industrial collaborative activities and signed more than 20 agreements. They have played a positive role in promoting the common development of the winter sports industry in the two countries.

For examples, at the International Winter Sports Expo held in Beijing in October this year, Finland had more than 520 square meters of exhibition halls in the center of the venue, and more than 40 exhibitors participated in the expo.

China Bisheng Sports Culture Co., Ltd. introduced the products of the Finnish Biathlon Company (Suomen Biathlon Oy) and installed electronic biathlon target systems for two training bases in China, which will improve the training efficiency and quality of the Chinese athletes.

In addition, the Four Seasons Cross Country Ski Resort in Beishan, Jilin province, which is designed by Finnish experts with the "snow cave" technology, provides professional athletes and ski enthusiasts with year-round snow training venue.

The year of winter sports has also boosted cooperation in related industries. Honka, a well-known Finnish log building company, is cooperating with Chinese partners to build authentic Finnish style of ice-snow log house resorts in China. Reima, a famous Finnish brand of outdoor sportswear, has sponsored Chinese ski schools, striving to increase its visibility in China.

Just as Jarno Syrjala, Finnish ambassador to China, said, the theme year "became a milestone in cooperation between the two countries in the field of sports".

The theme year has brought the friendship and communications between the peoples of the two countries to a new level. Vuokatti, which is a sparsely populated village in central Finland, has welcomed a large number of Chinese professional and amateur athletes for training and tournaments. The members of the Chinese national training team told Xinhua that at the training base there, they have been on friendly terms with Finnish coaches, service personnel and local residents.

As the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics approaches, winter sports are becoming more and more popular in China. Finland has become one of the best destinations for Chinese tourists to get to know more about winter sports.

According to Finnish tourism promoting agent Visit Finland, on the basis of the booking numbers for the next three months, a total of 140,000 Chinese tourists are arriving in Finland between December 2019 and February 2020, an increase of 16 percent comparing to the last winter.

The Paljakka tourist resort in Puolanka, a small town in central Finland, has to divide Chinese tourists into eight groups and let them stay in turns, as the number of bookings made by Chinese tourists has far exceeded the capacity of the small resort.

When the theme year was about to end, Hanna Kosonen, Finnish Minister of Science and Culture, told Xinhua that she is very happy that Finland has the opportunity to share knowledge, professional skills and cultural practices in the field of winter sports with many Chinese people.

At the Helsinki Olympics in 1952, Finland witnessed the Chinese national flag rising at the Olympic Stadium for the first time. Today, the theme year of winter sports started a new chapter in the friendship between the two peoples.

As Tuula Haatainen, then first deputy speaker of the Finnish Parliament, said at the closing ceremony, the cooperation between Finland and China in the field of winter sports is booming. The end of the theme year is not an end, but a new beginning. The cooperation in the field of winter sports will continue until the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, the Paralympics and the post-Olympic era. 

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