China is building an entire winter sports industry and training hundreds of elite athletes so it can dominate the 2022 Winter Olympics

  • China wants to build hundreds of ski resorts and skating rinks — effectively a whole new winter sports industry — ahead of its turn hosting the Olympics.
  • The aim is to breed a new generation of athletes to win big at the 2022 Winter Olympics in China.
  • The country wants to look good in front of a home audience.
  • An expert told Business Insider it might not work, no matter how much they invest.


China is investing billions of dollars into new ski resorts, skating rinks, and athletics programs to breed a new generation of athletes that can help it win big in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

The country wants to build 800 ski resorts and 650 skating rinks by 2022, when it will host the next Winter Games, the state-owned China Daily newspaper reported.

China unveiled the ambitious project in 2015, when it was chosen to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

The plan is to create 300 million skiers, skaters, ice hockey players, and other winter athletes within the next few years — some of whom will represent the country in four years' time, when the country's status as host will allow it to enter athletes into every single discipline.

Its plans effectively amount to constructing an entire winter sports industry in the run-up to the next Winter Olympics.

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Beijing prepares for 2022 Winter Olympics
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Beijing prepares for 2022 Winter Olympics
In this picture taken on August 22, 2017, people snowboard at the Wanda Harbin Ice and Snow Park in Harbin. At Dalian Wanda Group's new Ice and Snow Park, chilly winds blew snowflakes around skiers zipping down the manmade slopes of the world's largest indoor ski park, a potent symbol of China's ambitions to turn itself into a winter sports powerhouse ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. / AFP PHOTO / Nicolas ASFOURI / TO GO WITH China-lifestyle-ski, FEATURE by Yanan WANG (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
In this picture taken on August 22, 2017, children snowboard and surf at the Wanda Harbin Ice and Snow Park in Harbin. At Dalian Wanda Group's new Ice and Snow Park, chilly winds blew snowflakes around skiers zipping down the manmade slopes of the world's largest indoor ski park, a potent symbol of China's ambitions to turn itself into a winter sports powerhouse ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. / AFP PHOTO / Nicolas ASFOURI / TO GO WITH China-lifestyle-ski, FEATURE by Yanan WANG (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
In this picture taken on August 22, 2017, a general view of the Wanda Harbin Ice and Snow Park in Harbin. At Dalian Wanda Group's new Ice and Snow Park, chilly winds blew snowflakes around skiers zipping down the manmade slopes of the world's largest indoor ski park, a potent symbol of China's ambitions to turn itself into a winter sports powerhouse ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. / AFP PHOTO / Nicolas ASFOURI / TO GO WITH China-lifestyle-ski, FEATURE by Yanan WANG (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
In this picture taken on August 22, 2017, a man helps a girl to wear ski boots at the Wanda Harbin Ice and Snow Park in Harbin. At Dalian Wanda Group's new Ice and Snow Park, chilly winds blew snowflakes around skiers zipping down the manmade slopes of the world's largest indoor ski park, a potent symbol of China's ambitions to turn itself into a winter sports powerhouse ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. / AFP PHOTO / Nicolas ASFOURI / TO GO WITH China-lifestyle-ski, FEATURE by Yanan WANG (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
In this picture taken on August 22, 2017, people snowboard and ski at the Wanda Harbin Ice and Snow Park in Harbin. At Dalian Wanda Group's new Ice and Snow Park, chilly winds blew snowflakes around skiers zipping down the manmade slopes of the world's largest indoor ski park, a potent symbol of China's ambitions to turn itself into a winter sports powerhouse ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. / AFP PHOTO / Nicolas ASFOURI / TO GO WITH China-lifestyle-ski, FEATURE by Yanan WANG (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
In this picture taken on August 22, 2017, people snowboard and ski at the Wanda Harbin Ice and Snow Park in Harbin. At Dalian Wanda Group's new Ice and Snow Park, chilly winds blew snowflakes around skiers zipping down the manmade slopes of the world's largest indoor ski park, a potent symbol of China's ambitions to turn itself into a winter sports powerhouse ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. / AFP PHOTO / Nicolas ASFOURI / TO GO WITH China-lifestyle-ski, FEATURE by Yanan WANG (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
In this picture taken on August 22, 2017, people clean their snowboards at the Wanda Harbin Ice and Snow Park in Harbin. At Dalian Wanda Group's new Ice and Snow Park, chilly winds blew snowflakes around skiers zipping down the manmade slopes of the world's largest indoor ski park, a potent symbol of China's ambitions to turn itself into a winter sports powerhouse ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. / AFP PHOTO / Nicolas ASFOURI / TO GO WITH China-lifestyle-ski, FEATURE by Yanan WANG (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
In this picture taken on August 22, 2017, a boy skis at the Wanda Harbin Ice and Snow Park in Harbin. At Dalian Wanda Group's new Ice and Snow Park, chilly winds blew snowflakes around skiers zipping down the manmade slopes of the world's largest indoor ski park, a potent symbol of China's ambitions to turn itself into a winter sports powerhouse ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. / AFP PHOTO / Nicolas ASFOURI / TO GO WITH China-lifestyle-ski, FEATURE by Yanan WANG (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
In this picture taken on August 22, 2017, people ski at the Wanda Harbin Ice and Snow Park in Harbin. At Dalian Wanda Group's new Ice and Snow Park, chilly winds blew snowflakes around skiers zipping down the manmade slopes of the world's largest indoor ski park, a potent symbol of China's ambitions to turn itself into a winter sports powerhouse ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. / AFP PHOTO / Nicolas ASFOURI / TO GO WITH China-lifestyle-ski, FEATURE by Yanan WANG (Photo credit should read NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - APRIL 26: The design of the speed skating venue 'Ice Ribbon' for the 2022 Winter Olympics is displayed on April 26, 2017 in Beijing, China. Beijing unveiled the new design of the speed skating venue 'Ice Ribbon' for the 2022 Winter Olympics including models of covered and uncovered venues on Tuesday. The 220-meter-long and 160-meter-wide venue will be able to hold around 12,000 spectators, and will be located at the Olympic Park in Beijing. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - MAY 15: Beijing Olympic Tower is illuminated at night during the Belt and Road Forum on May 15, 2017 in Beijing, China. Beijing Olympic Tower is near the China National convention Centre where some meetings related to the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation was held. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - APRIL 26: The design of the speed skating venue 'Ice Ribbon' for the 2022 Winter Olympics is displayed on April 26, 2017 in Beijing, China. Beijing unveiled the new design of the speed skating venue 'Ice Ribbon' for the 2022 Winter Olympics including models of covered and uncovered venues on Tuesday. The 220-meter-long and 160-meter-wide venue will be able to hold around 12,000 spectators, and will be located at the Olympic Park in Beijing. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - 2017/04/21: Bird's Nest, which is Chinese National sport stadium, in the Olympics park. After the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, the bird's nest center held a total of more than 8000 all kinds of activities, receiving Chinese and foreign tourists 400 million passengers. The opening and closing ceremonies of the 2022 Winter Olympics will also be held in the bird's nest, which will be the world's first venue for the opening and closing ceremonies of the summer and winter olympics. (Photo by Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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Billion-dollar plans for winter sports

China made its newfound enthusiasm for winter sports official in 2016, when it published its five-year National Fitness Program – a 1.5 trillion renminbi ($237 billion/£169 billion) plan unveiled in 2016 to reinvigorate the country's fitness industries.

The plan highlighted the importance of winter sports, such as skiing and figure skating, and called for new facilities to cater to them.

Since the plan was announced, real estate developers have built massive new facilities to meet the country's demand for winter sports. Coaches from places like Britain and Canada have flocked there to make a living.

china ski resort mapReuters

According to China Daily, the number of ski resorts in the country rose from 300 to 700 between 2014 and 2017 alone.

Last July, the northern Chinese city of Harbin opened the world's largest indoor ski resort, which cost 40 billion RMB ($6.3 billion/£4.5 billion) to build, and whose slopes can accommodate 3,000 people at a time. This video shows what it looks like:

China is also building new high-speed trains to shuttle skiers from Beijing to Chongli, a town in the northern Hebei province where most of the 2022 Games events will take place, the LA Times reported.

What's behind China's new obsession with winter sports?

The main reason is to win big and look good in front of a home audience in 2022.

The country invested heavily in grooming its athletes for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, David Dollar, a China expert at the Brookings Institute, told Axios.

It appeared to pay off — the country ended up taking the most gold medals that year, effectively winning the games.

Mark Dreyer, the founder of the Beijing-based news site China Sports Insider, told Business Insider: "Every country wants to do well on home soil, and past results show that the host nation almost always gets a bump in the medals table (due to factors including increased funding and home support), so China would gladly trade success in 2018 for success in 2022."

As Liu Bo, a former ski trainer, told Reuters: "China spends big money setting up the stage [for the Winter Olympics], and the performers are all foreigners. President Xi will not allow this to happen. We have to be the leading actor in 2022."

Liu Bo, a former ski trainer, told Reuters that Chinese President Xi Jinping was determined to have China be the preeminent in the 2022 games and would not accept a situation where the stars of the show are "all foreigners."

"President Xi will not allow this to happen," he said. "We have to be the leading actor in 2022."

China's ambitions for winter sports go beyond the 2022 Games, however. As the country becomes richer, the government hopes to turn winter sports into a sprawling new industry.

Authorities expect China's winter sports industry to be worth 1 trillion RMB ($158 billion/£113 billion) by 2025, the South China Morning Post reported.

As of last year, it was worth around 397 billion RMB ($62 billion/£45 billion), the China Daily said, meaning the industry would need to almost triple in size to meet the target.

The LA Times quoted Laurent Vanat, a Swiss ski consultant, describing China as "the only market with such tremendous potential."

11 PHOTOS
Chinese athletes at the 2018 Winter Olympics
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Chinese athletes at the 2018 Winter Olympics
China's Liu Jing (2nd R) and China's Hao Jiachen (R) react with their coaches after competing in the women's team pursuit final C speed skating event during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Gangneung Oval in Gangneung on February 21, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Roberto SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA FEBRUARY 21, 2018: Figure skater Li Xiangning of China performs during the ladies' short programme as part of the figure skating competition at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, at the Gangneung Ice Arena. Valery Sharifulin/TASS (Photo by Valery Sharifulin\TASS via Getty Images)
Pilot Shao Yijun of China (front) leads his team at the start of the 4-man bobsleigh training session during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games, at the Olympic Sliding Centre in Pyeongchang on February 21, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Mark Ralston (Photo credit should read MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA FEBRUARY 21, 2018: Bobsledders Shao Yijun, Shi Hao, Li Chunjian and Wang Sidong of China training for the men's four-man bobsleigh competition during the 2018 Winter Olympic Games, at the Olympic Sliding Centre. Sergei Bobylev/TASS (Photo by Sergei Bobylev\TASS via Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 20: The disqualified China team look on following the Ladies Short Track Speed Skating 3000m Relay Final A on day eleven of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 20, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by XIN LI/Getty Images)
China's speed skating bronze medallist Gao Tingyu poses in front of Olympic rings backstage at the Athletes' Lounge during the medal ceremonies at the Pyeongchang Medals Plaza during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang on February 20, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Dimitar DILKOFF (Photo credit should read DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty Images)
China's Li Jinyu competes in the women's 1,000m short track speed skating heat event during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games, at the Gangneung Ice Arena in Gangneung on February 20, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Mladen ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG-GUN, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 20: Bingqiang Mao of China competes during the Freestyle Skiing Men's Ski Halfpipe Qualification on day eleven of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Phoenix Snow Park on February 20, 2018 in Pyeongchang-gun, South Korea. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)
PYEONGCHANG, Feb. 19, 2018 -- China's Gao Tingyu celebrates after finishing men's 500m event of speed skating at 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Oval, Gangneung, South Korea, Feb. 19, 2018. Gao Tingyu claimed third place in a time of 34.65 seconds.(Xinhua/Han Yan via Getty Images)
GANGNEUNG, SOUTH KOREA - FEBRUARY 19: Shiyue Wang and Xinyu Liu of China during the Figure Skating Ice Dance Short Dance program on day ten of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at Gangneung Ice Arena on February 19, 2018 in Gangneung, South Korea. (Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
China's Gao Tingyu competes in the men's 500m speed skating event during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games at the Gangneung Oval in Gangneung on February 19, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Mladen ANTONOV (Photo credit should read MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/Getty Images)
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So will China win big in 2022?

Dreyer, the Beijing-based sports journalist, said there is "no chance" China will win the 2022 Games — but it could still manage a large medal haul.

China is unlikely to win in the more traditional — and by extension more competitive — winter sports, like downhill and slalom skiing, he said.

However, it might have a chance in the newer or less popular ones, such as freestyle and mogul skiing, snowboarding, and curling.

Dreyer said: "Few, if any, countries can match the funding that China will invest in winter sports at the elite level over the next four years, meaning that in at least some of the disciplines, Chinese athletes will be as competitive as any other country. [...]

"On a wider level, China has targeted a goal of having 120 million skiers and 180 million skaters by an unspecified date. These are ludicrously overambitious targets, but if China only succeeds in achieving a fraction of these targets, it could still have one of the largest winter sports bases by population in the world.

"That, in turn, will help to generate more medallists at the elite level."

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