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China prioritises winter sports vocational courses to meet Beijing 2022 demand

Skiing enthusiast walks past a sign for Beijing's bid for the Winter Olympics logo at a ski resort on January 17, 2015 in Zhangjiakou, Hebei Province, China. 2015 is Beijing's 2022 Winter Olympics bid to kick off the new year.

The Chinese Ministry of Education released an updated list of higher vocational education programs offering training in ice and snow sports facility maintenance and management, to meet increasing demand for skilled workers in the industry ahead of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games.

Dong Jianming, dean for the Institute of Ice and Snow at Zhangjiakou University, said to Xinhua: “The upcoming winter Olympics in Beijing has brought us an unprecedented opportunity for fostering more talent in China’s growing ice and snow industry.”

The institute is located some 200 km northwest of Beijing and newly-founded in 2018, with courses specific to sports knowledge, language, multi-cultural communication and first aid, all skills needed to deal with the influx of winter sports enthusiasts and athletes before, during and after the Beijing Winter Olympics.

Dong added the training of professionals in the ice and snow sports industry is affected by various factors just as the availability of suitable sports sites, seasonal changes and the ebbs and flows of winter sport enthusiasts, which makes the large-scale cultivation of talent through traditional education institutions and courses difficult.

Zhangjiakou, a city in China’s Hebei province, will co-host the 2022 Games and stage several competitions, including snowboarding, freestyle skiing, cross-country skiing and ski-jumping.

Beijing was awarded the Games on the back of a bid campaign which promised to use the opportunity to significantly grow winter sports in the country, with a target of encouraging 300 million Chinese to take up some form of winter sport. China also said it plans to bid for further major international winter sports competitions in the future.

So far, from 2018 to 2019, the number of domestic skiers has reached 23.45 million, and increase of 21.5 per cent from the previous year, according to market research company International Data Group.

According to media reports in July, the winter sports economy has contributed to the creation of 1.5 million jobs in China, as the number of ski resorts in the country rose to 742 and the number of ice rinks to 596 by the end of 2018.

In total, the sector was worth $53.6bn (£42.7bn/€47.7bn) in 2018, up 16 per cent over the $46.2 billion (£36.8bn/€41.1bn) valuation in 2017.

The work going into preparing Beijing for the 2022 Games was also leading to an increase in winter sports events – over 4,400 were held at district, municipal or national level in 2018, engaging 8.15 million people.