The legacy of Beijing 2022 was much in evidence during the Labor Day holiday in Xi'an, the capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi province, where young people's participation in winter sports has soared.
On the first day of the five-day holiday, a provincial youth ice hockey tournament was held in the city, attracting over 100 boys and girls. The event marked the first time the youngsters had competed on the floor, as previous editions were staged on ice.
"There isn't too much difference between the two types of venues. The most obvious difference is that players can glide more smoothly on the rink than on the floor," Zhang Zhange told Xinhua at the tournament. As the head coach of Xi'an Feixuan Ice Hockey Club, he said a growing number of students in Xi'an are taking up the sport.
"A lot of schools and clubs have been teaching students to play ice hockey on the floor or ice," Zhang said. He added that a total of 70 kids, ranging in age from 6 to 15 years old, are training at the club, which is around 15 times the number when the club was founded in 2017.
According to organizers, Shaanxi province has staged three to four youth ice hockey competitions each year since 2018. Moreover, this year's Xi'an Municipal Games will also feature ice hockey and figure skating.
"Participation in winter sports has been surging after the successful staging of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games," said Feng Shibing, a consultant with the Shaanxi Winter Sports Association.
During the holiday, O'Jia Ice Sports Club, where the previous four editions of the hockey tourney were held, officially opened a new skating rink in a downtown shopping mall in Xi'an. It attracts hundreds of people, mostly young students, each day.
"It was pretty exciting," enthused one citizen, Nie Junxing, who enjoyed the experience. He stepped onto the rink alongside his seventh-grade daughter, who is fond of roller skating and mastered the basic skills on the ice after a 90-minute training session.
As a major city in Northwest China, Xi'an has huge potential to promote winter sports, according to Jing Mei, the owner of the O'Jia club. She added that opening rinks in shopping malls is a great way to showcase skating and ice hockey to the masses－a stated goal of industry leaders in the post-Beijing Winter Olympics era.
"We are planning to open another rink in downtown Xi'an this year while training more coaches to meet the increasing needs of people to participate in ice hockey and figure skating," Jing said.
At the beginning of this year, Shaanxi province fulfilled its goal of involving 5 million people in winter sports. According to Feng, the province will continue to work with relevant governing bodies and associations, organizing more competitions, training sessions and campus activities to foster the growth of winter sports.