China’s strategy to win gold at the Beijing Winter Olympics – Quartz – the Madison Leader Gazette

It is impossible to watch the recent Olympics in a crowd in China without hearing a contemptuous comparison to Beijing 2008. The perceived success of the Beijing Olympics, the first Games hosted by China and in which China won the most gold medals, remains a point of national pride and one of the few successful expressions of soft power in the country.

In the run-up to these Olympics, China implemented Project 119, an industrial development plan to train the country’s athletes and make them competitive for the 119 gold medals available in five of China’s worst sports: athletics , swimming, rowing, boxing and sailing. Along with other sport development strategies, including focusing on women’s events and competitions involving agility, billions of dollars were then invested in athlete training and the construction of sports infrastructure, and in 2008 Olympics, China finally exceeded the number of gold medals for the first time.

In Tokyo, the United States narrowly beat China in the last minute for most gold, with 39 medals against 38.

Whether China can recreate that success with the 2022 Winter Olympics next February, even with home advantage, remains an open question. Aside from issues that could derail the Games like Covid-19 and diplomatic boycotts on human rights, winter sports have never been China’s strong suit. While China ranked among the top three medalists at the 2004 and 2000 Summer Olympics – the top medal spot in 2008 was arguably still within reach – the country has never been in the top. 10 for the Winter Olympics, with the exception of the seventh in Vancouver in 2010.

One of the reasons is that China simply does not have enough competitive winter sports athletes. In 2018, the country’s athletes competed in only about half of Pyeongchang’s 102 events and won a single gold medal, while the United States entered at least one athlete in almost every event. China then vowed to qualify for all 109 events at the 2022 Olympics.

And it is possible that they will. According to the president of the Coordination Commission of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the Beijing Games, Juan Antonio Samaranch, in 2019 China had “more than 3,300 athletes training in the national team”, against 300 who are trained for Pyeongchang. This sharp increase is probably due to the national support that winter sports have received in recent years.

An industrial strategy for winter sports

Unsurprisingly, since the successful announcement of the Olympic Winter Games bid in 2015, Beijing has encouraged winter sports in the same way it has with the Summer Games and always has. made with the national economy: industrial policy.

The Ice and Snow Sports Development Program (2016-2025) highlighted priority sectors for investment, such as winter sports infrastructure, snow equipment manufacturing, snowmaking industry. competitive performance, tourism and winter sports education. He also set ambitious goals for 2025: to increase the number of Chinese winter sports participants to 300 million, increase the total value of the industry to around $ 155 billion, and build 5,000 bootcamp-style elementary and middle schools. winter sports oriented.

Since then, other important national plans have highlighted the importance of the development of China’s winter sports industry, including the National Fitness Plan (2016-2020), the National Plan for the construction of winter sports facilities, ice and snow sports (2016-2022), the Development of ice and snow tourism Action Plan (2021-2023), and even the recent 14th five-year plan (2021-2025).

These plans combine investments in infrastructure and educational programs as part of a national strategy to create a winter sports industry. They have also directed spectacular industrial subsidies to the sector. According to the 2021 China Ice and Snow Tourism Development Report released by the Chinese Academy of Tourism, private and public investment in the sector during the three-year period from 2018 to 2020 has exceeded 140 billions of dollars.

The number of ski resorts and the total number of skier visits increased by 35% and 67% respectively between 2015 and 2019, according to the 2020 China Ski Industry White Paper. China now has more ski resorts than the United States. Likewise, the number of indoor rinks is targeted at 650 in 2022, up from 188 in 2016. The United States has approximately 1,500 indoor rinks.

Strengthening ties with winter sports nations

In preparation for the Winter Olympics, China has also signed agreements with many countries, including Finland, Norway, Switzerland and Austria, to host and train Chinese athletes at the country’s national sports facilities. China has also recruited foreigners as head coaches for a number of the country’s weaker sports, such as speed skating, curling and skiing.

This strategy was often successful at the Summer Olympics, where more recently the Chinese rowing team won two bronze medals and one gold medal from revered Olympic rower and coach Steve Redgrave at the Games. Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Unfortunately, in addition to having more ground to catch up than was necessary for the 2008 Summer Games, successful representation at the 2022 Olympics may be hampered by diplomatic boycotts of human rights violations by China as well as by Covid-19, although the latter may also end up helping to develop China’s winter sports offer, as people cannot travel abroad to ski.

It has become an aphorism that the Olympic Games are much more than sport. The 2008 Beijing Olympics were the hallmark of China as a great power for many. The Tokyo 2020 Games were supposed to be Japan’s resurgence after the Fukushima disaster in 2011. And China hopes to use 2022 to show the world the success of the country’s handling of Covid-19.

With a budget of nearly $ 4 billion, it goes without saying that the Winter Olympics will be a glitzy affair. It won’t be long before we see if years of hard work and billions of investments in winter sports can propel Chinese athletes to the podium in 2022.

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