Tuesday, 23 April, 2024

Beijing 2022 starts new era for global winter sports: IOC President

President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach shows the Chinese character "Fu", meaning fortune and luck in English during an interview in Beijing, capital of China on Jan. 31, 2022.(Xinhua/Ju Huanzong)

BEIJING, Feb. 3 (Xinhua) -- The Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games will be the start of a new era for winter sports worldwide with over 300 million Chinese taking up winter sports, said International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach on Thursday, as he opened the 139th IOC Session in the Chinese capital on the eve of the Opening Ceremony.

The IOC President added that Beijing will officially become the first city ever to host both summer and winter editions of the Olympic Games on Friday.

Bach also believed that the Chinese people will enjoy social benefits from hosting the Games. "Today, China is a winter sport country. The increased physical activity through winter sport is contributing to the health and well-being of the Chinese people."

Meanwhile, the Chinese winter sports boom will surely have many economic benefits.

The IOC President said that China saw the income from winter sports exceed 61 billion US dollars in the last season. In 2019, more than 100 million tourists visited the Olympic mountain regions alone.

When Beijing was elected as host in 2015, over 16 percent of the residents of the Chongli district, where the Zhangjiakou competition zone is located, were living in poverty. By 2019, Chongli was officially declared to have eliminated poverty.

"Today over 20 percent of the (Chongli) residents are employed in jobs related to winter sports," Bach said.

According to Bach, Beijing is also showcasing solutions for a more sustainable future.

"From re-using venues from the Olympic Games 2008; to powering all Beijing 2022 venues with renewable energy; to minimising environmental impacts and reducing carbon emissions, all these initiatives underline the commitment of Beijing 2022 to contribute to sustainable development in China," he said.

Beijing 2022 will also mean a lot for winter sports beyond China, and change the global landscape of winter sports forever.

For the athletes, Bach underlined how they have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reach not only their traditional supporters, but also a completely new fan base during these Olympic Winter Games.

"These Games are not the end of the story. With their performance and their appearance, each of these athletes can win over a huge new fan community for the time after the Games. With this they can take their own popularity and the popularity of their winter sport to new heights," said the German.

The IOC will reconvene the Session in May to focus on Olympic Agenda 2020+5, confirmed Bach.