Preparations for Beijing Games continue apace as two-year countdown begins
China is hopeful of achieving its best-ever Winter Olympics medal tally at the Beijing 2022 Games. (PHOTO / XINHUA)
With Feb 4 marking the two-year countdown to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, preparations for the Games are continuing apace — both athletically and logistically.
Undeterred by the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak, Chinese athletes are maintaining their training and competition schedules against all odds.
Relevant governing bodies are also attempting to limit the spread of the virus to a minimum with a series of strict measures.
With virus control now a priority, no confirmed or suspected cases have been discovered among all of China’s national teams, according to Liu Guoyong, vice-president of the Chinese Olympic Committee.
Teams are training in isolation to ensure a “clean” environment for all athletes.
However, many sporting events in China have been postponed or canceled, such as the 14th Chinese National Winter Games in Inner Mongolia autonomous region, and a men’s Alpine Ski World Cup meet, which had been scheduled to take place at Yanqing’s 2022 Olympic course near co-host city Zhangjiakou in Hebei province.
China’s General Administration of Sport has also taken measures to ensure the safety of athletes competing abroad.
On July 31, 2015, Beijing and Zhangjiakou were announced as host cities for the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Since then, China has been pursuing ambitious targets to have full participation in all 109 events and to achieve its best ever result at a winter Games.
Despite scoring just one gold medal at Pyeongchang 2018, the Chinese delegation made strides in terms of participation, featuring in 53 events — its highest total to date.
Still, more than doubling its representation at the 2022 Games is a major challenge for China.
At the moment, China is on course to qualify directly for 61 events out of 109, while the remaining 48 will be decided through ranking points.
Featuring in all events is all the more difficult considering around a third of Winter Olympic events had not been widely practiced in China before it was awarded the 2022 Games.
With this in mind, China has looked overseas for guidance, with 170 foreign nationals now working on the coaching staff of national teams — up from just two in 2014.
A number of world-famous coaching teams have established cooperation with China’s Winter Sports Administrative Center, including Canadian figure-skating guru Brian Orser, who guided South Korea’s Kim Yuna and Japan’s Yuzuru Hanyu to Olympic gold medals.
Besides joining forces with world-renowned coaches, China has also moved forward in technological research and development, while maintaining a zero-tolerance stance against doping.
China is also working on streamlining its pool of elite athletes.
Ni Huizhong, director of China’s Winter Sports Management Center, revealed that the number of athletes preparing for Beijing 2022 dropped from more than 4,000 to 1,153 last year.
Recent results prove that the strategy has been at least partially successful, with medal tallies more than double those at the same stage in the previous season.
However, Ni cautioned: “We still have clear weaknesses and disadvantages, especially in some events where we are encountering a big crisis,” he said.
Beyond achieving full participation and its best ever result at Beijing 2022, China is also focused on ensuring a lasting post-Games winter sports legacy.
According to Ni, China’s Winter Sports Management Center is considering establishing a second-string national team, aiming to maintain the development of Chinese winter sports after Beijing 2022.
Around 300 athletes are expected to be recruited onto the team, which will have specific training bases, staff members and plans.
Another anticipated benefit is the increase in expertise, thanks to China’s work with foreign experts.
HONG KONG NEWS