Nostalgia heats up with cool celebrations
China Daily

Fond memories abound as ceremonies held at the Ice Cube and Shougang Industrial Park to celebrate Games' anniversary

One year after its grand opening, the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics have reshaped the landscape of winter sports globally, and the International Olympic Committee has lauded the rich legacy of the Games.

Beijing 2022 venue the "Ice Cube" welcomes organizers, staff and volunteers of the Games to an event on Saturday marking the one-year anniversary of the opening of the Winter Olympics. (Photo: China Daily)

With figure skating shows, the slogans of the Games and themed songs presented at the iconic venue, a ceremony was held at western Beijing's Shougang Industrial Park on Saturday night. It brought back fond memories of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, as organizers celebrated the one-year anniversary of the start of the Games on Feb 4 last year.

"The legacy of these Olympic Games is already tangible with all the venues open to the public," IOC president Thomas Bach said in a video speech addressing the ceremony on Saturday.

"In so many other aspects, Beijing 2022 has set new standards: whether it is showcasing innovative green technologies, promoting healthy and active lifestyles, or boosting the winter sport industry — the impressive legacy of the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 has set the path for the future."

A fitting example of Beijing 2022's influence on winter sports development and urban renovation in Beijing, the Shougang park that hosted the ceremony reinvented itself from a former steel mill into a modern destination for winter sports, sightseeing, fashion events and exhibitions through a transformation project as part of the Games.

Erected against three abandoned cooling towers at the park, the Shougang Big Air slope, which hosted some of the freestyle skiing and snowboarding events at Beijing 2022, became a new city landmark and has received 1 million visitors over the past year, according to the venue's owner Shougang Group.

As the official curling competition venue at Beijing 2022, the National Aquatics Center in Beijing's northern downtown has stood out as perhaps the world's most sustainable Olympic venue — after being transformed from a swimming venue built for the 2008 Summer Games to stage the ice events at the winter edition last year.

Featuring a system, that involves filling the swimming pool with retractable steel structures to support an ice surface, the aquatics center is capable of shifting between summer and winter sports modes, allowing it to diversify its operations all year round.

Two new ice rinks built in the venue's underground space opened to the public before the Spring Festival, becoming a hot spot among the city's skating fans.

At an event organized to mark the anniversary on Saturday, China's former women's curling national team captain Wang Bingyu, who served as the sport's program director at Beijing 2022, couldn't hold back her emotions.

"I can't believe how time flies and, suddenly, it's been a year," said Wang, who returned to the center, now dubbed the "Ice Cube", with hundreds of Beijing 2022 staff and volunteers to attend the event.

"Before the Games, our vision of turning a summer sports venue into a curling arena was considered by some as a gamble. Now, we've done more than just that, and we've created a new ice sports paradise for the people in Beijing.

"Watching kids enjoy themselves on the ice and learning the fundamentals of curling at the Olympic venue makes me so proud and emotional, especially today," said Wang.

Launched at Saturday's ceremony, a series of public events, including amateur competitions, Olympic exhibitions and Olympic venue open days, will be rolled out across the country over the next month to maintain the momentum of winter sports boom.

"It feels bigger than just an individual accomplishment to see that winter sports have become a popular way of life in the country, knowing that we did our part in that," said Xu Mengtao, China's freestyle skiing aerials Olympic champion.

"As an athlete, it only fuels my motivation to keep going and win more glory for my country by trying to compete at the next Olympics in Italy," said Xu, a veteran who is targeting a record fifth Winter Olympics at Milano Cortina 2026.

As China ambitiously develops its sports industry as a pillar for its overall economic growth, the potential of winter sports in drawing customers to mountain resorts while stimulating consumption in accommodation, ski training and equipment sales and rental has been tapped, resulting in a skyrocketing number of visitors at major resorts in North China during the holiday season.

According to estimates by the China Tourism Academy, China's winter leisure tourism sector is expected to welcome more than 520 million visitors and earned revenue of more than 720 billion yuan ($107 billion) during the 2024-2025 ice and snow season.

"Beyond staging a spectacular Games, Beijing 2022 was laser focused on delivering lasting social and economic benefits for its residents — in line with Olympic Agenda 2020+5," said Christophe Dubi, IOC's Olympic Games executive director.

"One year on, the most outstanding feature of these Games is the way they touched the lives of millions of local people by making them discover the world of winter sports. The organizers also made sure the Games minimized their impact on the environment making winter sports more sustainable."