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Beijing coal mine to be converted into state-of-the-art winter sports center

Updated: Jan 29, 2018 China Daily Print
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Children skate at a winter sports promotional event held in Beijing on Jan 4, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

Winter sports are very literally going underground in Beijing after plans were unveiled to turn an old coal mine into a state-of-the-art ski venue ahead of the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Having served as one of the capital's biggest energy sources for decades, Muchengjian Colliery, situated in a western suburb of the city, will now fuel a cleaner and healthier way of life when production shuts down later this month.

The National Winter Sports Administrative Center and the mine's owner, Beijing Energy Investment Holding, are developing a center for both professional and recreational skiers on mountains around the mine, with related infrastructure to be repurposed for fitness and sports research.

The core of the project involves the conversion of an old mining tunnel into an air-conditioned, 1.25-kilometer ski course, which will be open all year.

The winding course, boasting an 18-meter vertical drop, will be ideal for cross-country skiing - a relatively new discipline to China which requires long training on snow for elite competition.

"To provide a venue where our athletes can train all year long is an important step to make up for our lack of experience and facilities in cross-country skiing," said Hong Ping, a deputy director of the Winter Sports Administrative Center.

A network of downhill routes will be developed above the tunnel at an altitude of 400 meters. In summer they will be used for roller skiing.

A training complex for ski jumping, which includes in-run ramps, takeoff platforms and landing hills of four different heights, will also be constructed for year-round training on snow and porcelain surfaces or grass mats.

When the new complex is up and running, China's ski jumping team will only have to train for 40 days a year without professional facilities at home, allowing them to take as many as 400 jumps a year - a figure on a par with their international rivals - as they prepare for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

If all goes to schedule, the national team will be using the new facilities as early as this winter.

"The repurpose of the coal mine mainly for cross-country skiing and ski jumping will significantly help us address the urgent need for facilities in these two disciplines as the country aims to qualify for as many snow events as possible at the home Olympics in 2022," said Ni Huizhong, head of the Winter Sports Administrative Center.

Experts from the International Ski Federation and venue operators from Scandinavian countries will be hired to help in the construction, especially for the tunnel course.

The world's first ski tunnel was opened in 1998 inside a mountain at Vuokatti resort in Finland. Similar facilities for year-long indoor skiing can be found in Torsby in Sweden and Oberhof in Germany.

Jiang Fan, chairman of Beijing Energy Investment, expects the reconstruction of the coal mine, which began production in 1952, to help accelerate the company's business shift as the city gradually cuts overcapacity in heavy industries.

"The project will turn the depleted mine and deserted factories into new resources for future growth in lighter, healthier and more sustainable businesses in the sports, leisure and tourism sectors," he said.

"The redevelopment is in keeping with our country's ambition to boost the sports industry while getting rid of outdated businesses."

Muchengjian Colliery is among six major coal mines in western Beijing. During its heyday in the 1990s, it supplied 1.7 million tons of high-quality coal to the city.

The company began to reduce production in November 2016 as part of a project to develop a winter sports park in conjunction with an old Shougang steel mill, which now hosts the 2022 Winter Olympics organizing committee.

The park will also stage snowboard big air (which will debut at next month's Pyeongchang Olympics) events in the lead-up to the 2022 Games and beyond.


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