A coach teaches skiing at a winter camp in January 2014 in Chongli County, Zhangjiakou in Hebei Province (XINHUA)
The mountains near Beijing will have enough high-quality snow for the 2022 Winter Olympics, meteorological and sports experts reaffirmed one month ahead of the International Olympic Committee's announcement of the host city for the 2022 Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on July 31.
China will compete with Kazakhstan for the event. If chosen, China's cities Beijing and Zhangjiakou, Hebei Province, will host. Meanwhile, Kazakhstan offers up Almaty, a city near the country's southeastern border, as rival.
Indoor ice sports and games will be held in downtown Beijing, while snow-based events will take place in Yanqing County in suburban Beijing and Chongli County in Zhangjiakou.
According to Wang Ji, Deputy Director of the Beijing Municipal Climate Center of the Beijing Meteorological Bureau, low snowfall will not prevent Beijing from hosting a successful Olympic Games because downtown Beijing and Yanqing County have different climates. "Whereas [downtown] Beijing sees little snow in winter, Yanqing is fairly humid," Wang said.
The average annual snowfall in the mountainous area in Yanqing is around 20.2 cm (about 7.95 inches). Citing a research project he conducted that tracked weather data in the region from 1961 to 2012, Wang said that seven years from now the competition areas may see 2 to 3 cm more snow than they do presently.
Zhangjiakou, which is about 200 km northwest of Beijing, will see even more snow. The average annual snowfall in the designated competition area reaches 21 cm on average and can go as high as 72 cm.
Furthermore, while snow is necessary for skiing and snowboarding events, natural snow is not perfect. Manmade snow has been widely used in Winter Olympic Games. During the Sochi Games last year, organizers made enough snow to cover about 500 football fields to a depth of 2 feet.
"Artificial snow is more moist and durable and is thus more suitable for making race courses," said Gao Xuedong, Director of the Skiing Department of the Winter Games Center under China's General Administration of Sports.
In the eyes of industry experts, Beijing and Zhangjiakou offer ideal conditions for grooming and maintaining premium snow. "The climate and geographic conditions around [downtown] Beijing, Yanqing and Zhangjiakou are good for producing artificial snow, because the air has little humidity and it is relatively cold, which is the optimal combination," said Mojca Ogris-Schimberg, a senior manager at Demaclenko, which makes snowmaking machines.
To ensure there will be glistening white ski trails in 2022, authorities have made thorough plans to allocate ample water resources for snowmaking. According to Pan Anjun, Deputy Director of the Beijing Water Authority, two rainwater collection systems will be built in Yanqing. Together, they can collect up to 200,000 cubic meters of rain water in a single day. An existing reservoir that can store more than 2 million cubic meters of water could also be used for snowmaking. Given the fact that only about 186,000 cubic meters of water will be needed for centralized snowmaking, snow volume will surely not be a problem.
Zhangjiakou also implemented a water diversion project in 2013. The new project will divert 5 million tons of water a year from the nearby Yunzhou Reservoir upon completion in 2015.
"There has not been a single Winter Olympics that has not used artificial snow. The Olympic Committee mentioned that Beijing lacks snow, but it also said that water resources are completely sufficient. Even in the most adverse circumstances, the amount of water used in snowmaking would only account for less than 0.5 percent of the total in the area," said Wang Hui, Deputy Secretary General of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games Bid Committee, at a press conference in Beijing on June 30.
Beijing and Zhangjiakou have also already established themselves as popular destinations for professional skiing teams and skiing enthusiasts from all over the world.
"Back in 2004, I saw around 50 professional skiers from South Korea and Japan using Chongli's ski resorts as training grounds, but these days the number is closer to 600," said Song Zhiyong, Deputy General Manager of Genting Ski Resort in Chongli.
Kim Tae Soon, Vice President of the Korean Ski Association, has been sending South Korean skiers to train in Chongli since 2003. "We used to send our skiers to Europe to train, as we have always found it difficult to find training locations with annual snowfall greater than 40 cm in our own country," Kim said. "But since Chongli began hosting International Ski Federation competitions in 2005, more and more Korean skiers have headed there each year to train for international skiing events."
Wakatsuki Hitoshi, Deputy Director of the Japanese Ski Association's Alpine Skiing Department, said Chongli has been listed as a professional training base for Japanese skiers. "The weather and snow in Chongli are ideal for both training and competitions," Hitoshi said.
The author is a reporter for China.org.cn
(Chen Xia, Wu Qiongjing and Chris Parker contributed to the story)
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