China is gearing up to host an unforgettable Beijing 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Games to ignite winter-sports enthusiasm around the world
The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games are only a year away. Three years ago, at the closing ceremony of the 23rd Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, Chinese President Xi Jinping extended a warm invitation to people from all over the world: “See you in Beijing in 2022!” He pledged that Beijing would strive to deliver on its commitment to present an exciting, extraordinary, and outstanding Winter Olympic Games.
On January 18 and 19, 2021, President Xi inspected venue construction, athlete training, and preparation work for the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing and co-host city Zhangjiakou in Hebei Province. Xi expressed gratification to see that preparations for Beijing 2022 were well underway and that training was producing obvious results.
Over the past five years since Beijing was selected to host the 2022 Winter Games, the number of standard skating rinks across China has increased from 157 to 388, and the total number of ski resorts nationwide has jumped from 568 to 770. Each year, more than 3,000 mass ice and snow events such as the National Public Ice and Snow Season are organized across the country, with participation in ice and snow sports reaching 15 percent.
By the end of 2020, all competition venues had been completed, and other facilities are expected to begin operation by July 2021. Last year, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, China’s preparation work for the 2022 Winter Olympics still proceeded steadily and achieved remarkable progress.
The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics will utilize 25 venues including 12 competition venues located in three zones: downtown Beijing, Yanqing District in suburban Beijing, and Chongli District of Zhangjiakou. Among the newly constructed venues in downtown Beijing is the National Speed Skating Oval, a landmark structure featuring a facade of 3,360 pieces of icy-white curved glass creating a light, graceful effect reminiscent of ribbons, hence its nickname “Ice Ribbon.”
An embodiment of the “green Olympics” philosophy, the “Ice Ribbon” is the first large venue in the world to use carbon dioxide as the cooling agent to maintain a 12,000-square-meter ice surface for speed skating, according to Ma Jin, engineer in charge of ice-making at the oval. The technology is the most cutting-edge ice-making solution ever and produces nearly zero carbon emissions. Compared to the traditional refrigeration system, its ice-making efficiency is increased by at least 20 percent with improved functionality. The heat generated while making ice can be used to provide hot water, melt ice, and maintain the ice surface, potentially saving 2 million kWh of electricity every year, equivalent to the carbon dioxide emissions of 3,900 cars. “This ice-making solution will continue for post-Olympics events and play a positive role in addressing global climate change,” said Liu Xinping, director of sustainability with the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.
The mountainous Yanqing venue zone also prioritized ecological conservation in venue construction. The National Alpine Ski Center and the National Sliding Center in the zone both adopted ultra-low emission technologies to save maximum energy. Even before venue construction began, Yanqing rolled out an ecological restoration plan for a plot covering 2.14 million square meters, 94 percent of which has been completed. “Let Zhangjiakou’s wind light up Beijing,” goes a saying often heard during preparations for the 2022 Winter Games. With a flexible direct current (DC) power transmission project completed and now serving Zhangjiakou since June 2020, clean electricity generated from rich wind and solar resources in the region can now reach the national capital. For the first time in Olympic history, all venues will be entirely powered by green energy, according to organizers.
During a February 2017 inspection tour of Wukesong Sports Center and Capital Indoor Stadium, both Beijing 2022 venues, President Xi noted that Beijing would become the first city in the world to host both summer and winter Olympic Games. “Venue construction and operation must be carried out in an energy-efficient and sustainable manner,” he stressed.
Many of the venues are renovations of existing facilities including National Stadium (or Bird’s Nest), Wukesong Sports Center, Capital Indoor Stadium, and National Indoor Stadium. The National Aquatics Center, also known as the “Water Cube,” became the first sports facility to achieve transformation from “water” to “ice,” setting a good example for sustainable use of Olympic venues.
China’s concept of hosting a green, inclusive, open and clean Winter Olympics aligns with the key targets of IOC’s reforms. According to plans, after the Olympics, venues will be opened to the public for fitness purposes. The “Ice Ribbon,” for example, can accommodate over 2,000 people to simultaneously practice various ice sports such as ice hockey, speed skating, figure skating, and curling. After the 2022 Winter Games, it will serve as Beijing’s first year-round ice sports resort.
Thanks to “water-ice transformation” technology support, the National Aquatics Center in downtown Beijing can serve the public as a “Water Cube” in spring, summer, and autumn, and then become an “Ice Cube” in winter. The National Sliding Center in Yanqing specially offers sled runs designed for public use. After the Games, the National Cross-Country Center in Zhangjiakou will be renovated into a mountain park and an outdoor ice amusement center.
“The foundation for building a sporting powerhouse is mass participation in sports,” said Xi Jinping during his January inspection tour. “Hosting the Beijing Winter Olympics and Paralympics should help promote leapfrog development of China’s ice and snow sports to gradually solve the problems plaguing weak mass sports compared to strong competitive sports, weak winter sports compared to strong summer sports, and even weak snow sports compared to strong ice sports.”
The 2022 Winter Olympics will create opportunities for ice and snow sports to flourish in China as more ordinary people find ways to experience the fun of winter sports. This captures the Olympic value of “sharing” while nurturing the Olympic spirit.
“We have to already start at the beginning of this year to prepare for the upcoming Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022,” said IOC President Thomas Bach in his 2021 New Year’s message. “And there, everyone is really onboard. We see the same commitment and determination of our Chinese partners and friends, and all the Olympic venues are already ready to welcome the best winter sports athletes in the world.” Indeed, China is well-prepared to present a wonderful Winter Olympics to kindle passion for athletic grace on ice and snow around the globe.