The Beijing 2022 Games tap into the potential of regional development
By Tao Xing  ·  2021-10-25  ·   Source: NO.43 OCTOBER 28, 2021
A snowmaking machine works its way across a ski slope in Chongli District of Zhangjiakou City on October 19. The slopes of the Zhangjiakou competition zone are covered with artificial snow in preparation for the upcoming Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 (XINHUA)

Well before the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, which are just about three months away, Feng Yinong, a girl from Zhangjiakou of Hebei Province, has already enjoyed its benefits.

A high-speed railway built to link the competition zones across Beijing and Zhangjiakou, the two host cities, has shortened the journey back to her hometown.

In 2015, when China won the bid for the Beijing 2022 Games, Feng was a student in Beijing. Back then, she had to spend three to four hours traveling home to visit her parents. There was a dire need for speed.

That need has been met since December 30, 2019, when the most important transportation project for the Games, the Beijing-Zhangjiakou high-speed railway, went into operation. The 174-km-long railway, on which trains can travel at a maximum speed of 350 km per hour, slashes travel time between the two cities to merely 47 minutes, making it more convenient for winter sports fans to access the rich snow resources of Zhangjiakou and for Feng to go back home.

"Today, if I buy a ticket for the earliest train, I can be at my parents' place before 9 a.m.," Feng told Beijing Review. An extensive and efficient transportation network linking all three competition zones, namely downtown Beijing, Yanqing District and Zhangjiakou's Chongli District has gradually come into being, including a highway that went into operation in 2019 to connect Beijing with Chongli, where most of the skiing events of the Beijing 2022 Games will take place.

"The upcoming Olympics will also boost Zhangjiakou's overall development, especially in the winter sports industry," Feng said. With its abundant snowy assets, the city now has brand new prospects brimming on the horizon.

Ramping it up 

Zhangjiakou will host more than 50 events of six disciplines across two snow sports during the Games. To make the most of the Olympic Games, the Zhangjiakou local government has listed tourism and the winter sports industry as its main fostered industries, Lu Qing, an official of the city, told Beijing Review.

The rising number of tourists flocking to the city has resulted in more job opportunities and higher local incomes. In 2015, 16.8 percent of the 100,000 residents in Chongli, then a county under Zhangjiakou, were living under the national poverty line. The county became a district of Zhangjiakou in 2016. In May 2019, the district moved out of poverty. In Chongli, nearly 30,000 of its 126,000 residents were employed by ski resorts or related companies and organizations, Xinhua News Agency reported in mid-2020.

According to a sustainability plan released by the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games on May 15, 2020, social development has occurred across communities, with many residents within the vicinity of the competition zones engaging in new employment opportunities that have improved their living standards.

The Thaiwoo Ski Resort in Chongli opened its doors to the public in December 2015, several months after China had won its bid. "At this moment, we have 1,800 employees during winter season and 1,000 in summer. In early 2022, when four new hotels will become operational, this number is expected to go over 2,400, 80 percent of which will hail from Chongli and other areas of Zhangjiakou," Li Yongtai, executive vice president of the resort, told Beijing Review. "The resort helps tackle the problem of local unemployment."

Furthermore, the Beijing 2022 Games promote the internationalization of Zhangjiakou including Chongli, Li added. One case in point, the resort has engaged in partnerships with many foreign companies such as Canada's Ecosign, a company specializing in mountain resort planning, and France's POMA, a global leader in cable transport. 

"The improvement of the area's transportation infrastructure can spur on local economic development, especially tourism," Li said. "The Olympics has encouraged us to further upgrade our products and services. I think this endeavor will continue to thrive in the post-Olympic era."

In accordance with the rapid economic development, city governance, too, has seen its fair share of progress, according to Feng. A variety of urban gardens, museums and libraries has been constructed or renovated. "Local residents now have more leisure and entertainment options."

A view of Thaiwoo Ski Resort in Zhangjiakou's Chongli, Hebei Province (COURTESY PHOTO)

The domestic effect 

Previous assessments hold that the so-called Olympic Effect generally leads to a boost in economic growth due to greater investment and visitor influx. Nevertheless, in today's reality, the COVID-19 pandemic spoils this type of optimistic economic prospect. Tokyo can relate to that all too well.

Nonetheless, the Games are expected to boost the domestic economy, and, in particular, push forward the coordinated regional development of Beijing and Zhangjiakou, as well as Hebei Province at large.

China has been working on a development plan to boost the economic integration of Beijing and its surrounding provincial areas, namely Tianjin Municipality and Hebei, for many years. The three areas are the most important economic growth engines in north China and play a significant role in leading national economic development.

In alignment with the mission of the Beijing 2022 Games, the sustainability plan puts forward several objectives, which include the consolidation of regional cooperation to improve the environment and the coordinated development of the Beijing-Zhangjiakou region.

"Being the co-host city of the Beijing 2022 Games provides Zhangjiakou with a historical opportunity," Lu explained. "Thus, we will strengthen our cooperation with the capital in all respects."

All transportation construction aside, Zhangjiakou, together with Beijing, has indulged in the organization of cultural activities such as a photography exhibition on previous host cities of the Olympic Winter Games, and the Beijing-Zhangjiakou sports tourism festival, according to Lu.

"The ice and snow activities also attract many winter sports lovers," Lu included.

"With different programs in winter and summer, and a wide variety of standout services, our resort can receive millions of visitors every year," Li said. Most of these come from Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei Province, with the number of curious travelers from China's southern regions also on the rise.

In addition to Zhangjiakou, the Games have encouraged the development of the sports industry in other regions of Hebei. According to Xinhua, with the Beijing 2022 Games looming around the corner, the Tianhua Sporting Goods Co. Ltd. plant in Dingzhou, Hebei, was running overtime during the National Day holiday from October 1-7. As the official supplier of protective pads for the Games' short track speed skating event, the company, together with its workers, has been working long hours to meet production demands. The Dingzhou sporting goods industry runs wide in product types, large in production scale and high in market shares.

"By promoting environmental sustainability and driving coordinated regional development to improve the people's quality of life, the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 can be a powerful driving force for the sustainable development of both the host city and region at large, creating a strong model for positive interaction and mutual promotion between the Olympic Movement and the host country," the organizing committee of the Beijing 2022 Games concluded in a news release on the sustainability plan.

(Print Edition Title: Beyond the Olympics) 

Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon 

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