A staff member checks the snowmaking machine on a ski slope in Chongli District of Zhangjiakou City on October 19 (XINHUA）
Industrial history of a century and a modern lifestyle create a romantic integration on the former site of the Shougang Group, with the Olympic elements adding more vitality to the new landmark in China’s capital city.
The year 1919 saw the establishment of the steel-producing conglomerate in Beijing. As one of the earliest modern iron and steel enterprises in China, its profits tax accounted for a quarter of the city’s revenue during its heyday. In 2005, the company was relocated to Hebei Province to improve the capital’s local ecological environment. Today, its “industrial remains” have been transformed into the Beijing Winter Olympic Park.
Big Air Shougang, a steep snow ramp constructed inside the old steel mill, will serve as the venue for freestyle skiing and snowboarding events at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, which will kick off on February 4—with the Winter Paralympics to follow on March 4.
The Winter Games will be held in three competition zones—downtown Beijing, its northwest Yanqing District and the co-host city of Zhangjiakou in Hebei Province. Big Air Shougang is the only snow event venue in the capital’s downtown area, and it achieved a high evaluation during a field investigation on snowmaking by the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Games (BOCOG) on December 6.
Competition snow requires a higher density than recreational snow to meet the requirements of the International Ski Federation (FIS), the highest international governing body for skiing and snowboarding since 1924, and to ensure conditions are consistent for each competitor, according to Zhao Weidong, Director of the BOCOG Media and Communications Department, at a press conference on December 3.
“The imitation snow will not affect local water usage,” he said, insisting the snow will be produced in eco-friendly and cost-effective manner as an effort to fulfill the green Winter Games promise.
Artificial snow was first used during the 1980 Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid, New York. Around 90 percent of the snow used at the Alpine skiing venue for the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games was non-natural. The technology was also applied in Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014.
For many countries, natural snowfall cannot provide the advanced conditions required for competition, even further removed from the Olympic track demands. This is one reason why manmade snow is used in snow sports worldwide.
The BOCOG is committed to using a series of water-conserving techniques in snow-making to ensure low carbon emission and a sustainable utilization of resources.
“We first considered the use of collected and stored natural precipitation to make snow. For instance, precipitation in Yanqing is abundant, especially this year. In addition to natural precipitation, the water needed for snowmaking is provided by reservoirs in the region. According to statistics, the water necessary to sustain the Olympic Winter Games only accounts for 1.6 percent of the current water consumption in Yanqing,” Yu Bo, Chief of Yanqing District under Beijing Municipality, said at the press conference.
The meltwater will be recycled via reservoirs. In Yanqing, three reservoirs with a total maximum water storage capacity of 160,000 cubic meters can collect melt- and rainwater through conduits in the competition zone and pump up the water for snow production in the venues, forging an internal recycling system of water resources.
Rain or shine
An intelligent system based on the actual weather conditions will also contribute to the snowmaking process by deciding on timing, which marks yet another effort to further save on water resources and improve overall efficacy, Zhao said.
During some events, the quality, quantity and temperature of snow can affect athletes and judges alike, as well as visibility and wind speed, thus requiring the most accurate weather forecast possible, he said.
The Beijing 2022 Games are the first to take place in a continental monsoon climate, which features low temperatures, strong winds yet very little snow between February and March. Located in the mountains, the competition zones of Yanqing and Zhangjiakou will face more changeable weather conditions, posing more challenges for the weather forecast.
Four years ago, the China Meteorological Administration set up a meteorological center to serve the Beijing Winter Olympics. Apart from infrastructure developments, the center has continuously monitored and collected meteorological data, and compiled multiple reports to help all parties involved better prepare for meteorologically risks — well in advance.
At the same time, a weather forecasting team of 52 members was put together, diligently digging their way through international Winter Olympics statistics across a timespan of four years. They are set to be stationed at the different venues of the Beijing 2022 Games to put their professional skills to work and further understand local meteorological conditions and assess the changes that might occur.
“The team’s ability to provide accurate reports has improved in recent years. It will work closely with FIS experts to make the right adjustments for each event,” Zhao said.
An athlete takes part in a training session for a test event in Zhangjiakou, Hebei Province, on November 23 （XINHUA)
Practice makes perfect
From early October to the end of December, 10 international test events, three training weeks and two domestic test events have been scheduled to take to the slopes in the three competition zones, representing a comprehensive trial run with all factors taken into account, Yan Cheng, head of the operational center of the BOCOG, said during the news conference. The quality of the tests remains a priority for every competition zone, he said.
These trial runs provide many an opportunity for the organizing committee, venue teams and international individual organizations to join forces and simulate events according to the standards and technical specifications of the Winter Olympics.
Services, too, have been perfected throughout the process, including catering, housing and transportation, as well as the optimization of barrier-free facilities. The coordination between the headquarters and different venues has been enhanced in terms of technical support, television broadcasting and so on.
With the participation of local governments, epidemic prevention and control remains the top concern. The first handbook on COVID-19 control was formulated in October. “It highlighted measures such as simplifying events, vaccination, closed-loop management, and the integration of virus prevention and control,” Yan said.
“We have been paying close attention to the development of the Omicron variant and are evaluating its possible influence on the Beijing 2022 Games,” Zhao said, adding an updated version of the plan will soon be released.
Copyedited by Elsbeth van Paridon
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