Hosting the Winter Olympics isn't just about elite athletes – about 346 million Chinese have participated in winter sports activities since Beijing won the bid to host the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in 2015.
That's almost 25 per cent of China's total population, according to a report from the General Administration of Sport of China (GAS), based on a survey by China's National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
Of that total, 300 million are aged 18 and above, and the rest are under 18 while, of those who have participated in ice and snow sports since 2015, 70 per cent mainly want to have fun and enjoy themselves and nearly 16 per cent hope to keep fit and become stronger through the exercise.
The goal of involving 300 million people in ice and snow sports was designed not only to promote the winter sports but also to help health and exercise, according to Wang Yuxiong, director of the sports economy research institute under the Central University of Finance and Economics in China.
Government development plans relating to sports consumption, sports industry, national fitness programmes, youth sports and competitive sports all presented ice and snow sports as a desirable and fun pastime.
The public's awareness of ice and snow exercise continues to grow. The report suggests that more than 92 per cent of the respondents participating in ice and snow sports since 2015 did so of their own accord.
China's National Public Ice and Snow Season, initiated in 2014, has become an annual gala for popularising winter sports. Thirty-one Chinese provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities have joined the event, compared to merely 10 when it was first held in 2014.
More than 10 million took part then but that has now grown to nearly 100 million during the 2020-2021 snow season, with the number of relevant activities totalling nearly 1200.
The Beijing 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games have ushered in a new chapter for China's ice and snow sports, with 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities and 12 provincial-level regions seeing participants in winter sports account for over 30 per cent of their populations, according to the report.
Newly-built and renovated indoor ice rinks and skiing centres have made winter sports available in all seasons and have helped turn them into an emerging lifestyle.
Data from GAS show that, by the beginning of 2021, China had built 654 standard skating rinks and 803 indoor and outdoor ski resorts, an increase of 317 per cent and 41 per cent respectively over 2015.
With advances in technologies, winter sports have become less restricted by time and space – including the ability to cultivate winter sports in the non-snow season. Regions across China have formed organisation models for regular winter sports activities suiting all seasons, inspiring a new upsurge in participation in ice and snow sports.
Winter sports have turned from niche sports only in winter to leisure-oriented exercise activities suitable for all seasons, making them more popular and accessible in different parts of the country.
The report says that has enhanced people's sense of gain and happiness and contributed to China's experience and development of world winter sports.
Wang also points out that the drive to enable 300 million people to participate in winter sports, not only marks a milestone in the development of global ice and snow sports – it also has great significance for stimulating new consumption and economic growth.
Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), says that, as 300 million Chinese become familiar with sports on ice and snow, Beijing 2022 will become a dividing line in the history of world ice and snow sports as well as a milestone in the development of world ice and snow sports.