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Sarah Lewis: China Leading Way to Winter Sports Participation

Source:Xinhua Published:2021-04-21 21:05

Sarah Lewis, presidential candidate for the International Ski Federation (FIS), said that China is leading the way for winter sports participation and that it is key for the future of skiing and snowboarding globally.

"All eyes are on China as the snow sport market gathers pace in the run-up to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games," Lewis said in an interview with Xinhua.

"Since winning the bid in 2015 to host these Games, China has implemented an outstanding plan for greater participation in winter sports and has made developing the snow and ice industry a priority.

"The winter sports development plan has been established by the Chinese government working with the Chinese Sports Ministry, National Olympic Committee and Winter Sports Central Administration.

"Consequently, the overall plan is based on sound sports practices to introduce and evolve winter sports, with the additional objective of developing new champions.

"And believe me, the world will see many new Chinese champions emerging in the coming years, and already at Beijing 2022, as a result of the outstanding work of the Winter Sports Central Administration and its National Associations.

"Alongside the performance programs, the regions and cities around China are part of the project to develop winter sports as a recreational activity for the health and welfare of the population and for tourism. When you consider the global snow sports market has 150 million participants, tripling it will have a major impact on the winter sports industry - not only in China, but around the world."

China has now the fastest-growing snow sports industry in the world, with an ever-increasing number of ski resorts and ski visitors, especially domestic.

"By growing its ski resort numbers, as well as investing in dry slopes and simulators, China has massively opened up access to the sport, which is vital for participation by everyone of all ages, and to help produce generations of future athletes.

"Now global sports analysts are predicting that China will soon become the world's largest winter sports market."

FIS, founded in 1924 in Chamonix in the heart of the French Alps, will celebrate its 98th anniversary just two days before the Beijing Winter Olympic Games opening ceremony. It now governs more than half of the sports on the Beijing 2022 program.

"This is an incredibly exciting time for global snow sport, for China and indeed Asia," said Lewis of the Beijing Winter Olympics.

"The venues look outstanding, they are state-of-the-art, fully sustainable, have achieved new benchmarks with environmental aspects, and will provide a true legacy for competition sport and recreational snow sports after the Games. First of all, they will be a world showcase for the highest Olympic-level competitions and the very best athlete performances.

"Spectators around the world will be treated to exciting sport across ski and snowboard at the Yanqing and Zhangjiakou Clusters and at the exciting Shougang Olympic Park in Beijing, where the snowboard and freeski big air events will take place - this will not only inspire many more Chinese citizens to participate but will also attract global visitors."

Lewis, who was Secretary-General of the FIS for 20 years from 2000 to 2020, announced her candidacy to become president two weeks ago.

Snowsport has been a major part of her life since the age of five, learning to ski on a dry slope and by 15 years old training around the world, before competing in the World Championships at 23 and representing Britain aged 24 at the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary.

During her tenure, the FIS grew its membership from 80 to 135 National Ski Associations, with the Chinese Ski Association a member since joining almost 40 years ago in 1981.

She has also overseen the FIS activities at five Olympic Winter Games and was Chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency Independent Observers at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

Lewis sees the Olympic Winter Games as the pinnacle for attracting future athletes into the sport, and for raising global participation levels.

"Thanks to the proactive engagement of the IOC, the Beijing Games will also be the most gender-balanced Winter Games in Olympic history, with the quota of women increasing from 41 per cent in PyeongChang to over 45 per cent," said Lewis.

"This is such a powerful message to all our future athletes around the world."

There are 109 sets of medals to be awarded, seven more than there were at PyeongChang 2018.

New events will be contested in freestyle skiing, ski jumping and snowboard, as well as bobsleigh and short track.

"These brand new events, along with the already existing ski and snowboard disciplines, will give the broadcasters and wider media exciting opportunities to really demonstrate to our Chinese and global fan bases just how thrilling these sports are - and how accessible they now are both within China and worldwide.

"I personally cannot wait to see the athletes compete in Beijing - and I very much look forward to skiing at these clusters that I know very well having visited many times through their construction over the past four years, once these Games have successfully taken place."

Editor:Zhao Hanqing