HOHHOT, China, Jan. 17 (Xinhua) -- The countdown has started for China's 14th National Winter Games, which will open in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region on February 17.
The four-year delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed for extensive upgrades to the venues and infrastructure, using the experience of the Beijing Winter Olympics as references.
The Inner Mongolia Ice Sports Training Center, the main venue for the Games in the host city of Hulun Buir, has undergone a series of upgrades to meet the standard for high-level competitions.
"A total of 44 upgrades have been done, include lighting, power supply, and water filtration," said Xian Xuerui, deputy director of the training center.
"The original high-energy lighting has also been upgraded to reduce energy consumption by 60 to 70%. In addition, the venue is powered by renewable energy sources," Xian added.
The legacy of Beijing Winter Olympics has allowed the bobsleigh and the luge events, which previously had to be held abroad, to take place in Yanqing National Sliding Center.
The National Winter Games will incorporate ski mountaineering, which is newly added in the 2026 Winter Olympics.
"Although the 14th National Winter Games was postponed for four years, it was a time of growth for us," said Zhang Zhi, deputy director of Inner Mongolia Sports Bureau. "We are now better prepared to host athletes and spectators from all over the country."
People in Inner Mongolia are eagerly anticipating the Games, including volunteers, students, and businessmen.
"I've been preparing for four years, and I'm a little impatient," said Bao Shanshan, a returning volunteer from four years ago.
Bao is undergoing pre-game training. "Now I'm a volunteer at the ice hockey venue. Although the position is different from four years ago, my dream has finally come true."
In a middle school in Hulun Buir, the theme song of the National Winter Games can be heard echoing, and students came to the playground to play snow soccer and snowball fighting.
"The Games will open in a month, and the students all want to see the matches of Wu Dajing and Fan Kexin on their doorsteps as soon as possible," said Hu Huiting, principal of Nankai Road Middle School.
"By the time school starts again, there may be more students joining the ice and snow sports teams," Hu added.
The 14th National Winter Games has had a significant impact on Hulun Buir in terms of infrastructure, tourism and ice and snow industries.
The city has invested in the renovation of roads and sidewalks in the vicinity of the competition venues, as well as the renovation of old residential communities, improving the overall image of the city.
In recent years, Hulun Buir has hosted series of winter tourism events to enrich the experience for visitors.
In the Hulun Buir Ancient City scenic area, large ice sculptures showcase figure skaters, reindeer herds, and other winter scenes. Visitors can enjoy the ice sculptures and also browse the 14th National Winter Games licensed merchandise stores.
"The Beijing Winter Olympics has raised the bar for the quality and standards of licensed merchandise for major sporting events," said Xu Weijing, manager of a local cultural communications company. "The sports event offers a great opportunity for cultural and tourism industry. We have improved our creative design and cultural promotion abilities."
"Hulun Buir still has many untapped ice and snow resources. It has the natural geographical conditions to build tourist ski resorts and winter outdoor equipment testing bases," said Xuan Mingmei, director of the Hulun Buir Ice and Snow Industry Research Institute.
The city also plans to develop the ice and snow equipment manufacturing industry in the future. "We can't wait for the National Winter Games to arrive. We believe that by leveraging the opportunity, our ice and snow industry will enter a new phase," said Xuan.