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FIS candidate Lewis lauds China's snow sports push

China Daily | Updated: 2021-04-22 09:54
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International Ski Federation presidential candidate Sarah Lewis. [Photo provided to China Daily]

International Ski Federation presidential candidate Sarah Lewis says China's efforts to promote winter sports are key to the future of skiing and snowboarding worldwide.

"All eyes are on China as the snow sports market gathers pace in the run-up to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games," Lewis, who is bidding to become the first female president of the FIS, told Xinhua.

"Since winning the bid in 2015 to host these Games, China has implemented an outstanding plan for greater participation in winter sports and has made developing the snow and ice industry a priority," added the Briton.

"The winter sports development plan has been established by the Chinese government working with the Chinese Sports Ministry, National Olympic Committee and Winter Sports Administrative Center.

"Consequently, the overall plan is based on sound sports practices to introduce and evolve winter sports, with the additional objective of developing new champions.

"And believe me, the world will see many new Chinese champions emerging in the coming years, and at Beijing 2022, as a result of the outstanding work of the Winter Sports Administrative Center and its national associations.

"Alongside the performance programs, regions and cities around China are part of the project to develop winter sports as a recreational activity for the health and welfare of the population and for tourism. When you consider the global snow sports market has 150 million participants, tripling it will have a major impact on the winter sports industry-not just in China, but all around the world."

China now boasts the fastest-growing snow sports industry in the world, with an ever-increasing number of ski resorts catering to the nation's burgeoning domestic demand.

"By growing its ski resort numbers, as well as investing in dry slopes and simulators, China has massively opened up access to the sport, which is vital for participation by everyone of all ages, and to help produce future generations of athletes.

"Now global sports analysts are predicting that China will soon become the world's largest winter sports market."

The FIS, founded in 1924 in Chamonix in the heart of the French Alps, will celebrate its 98th anniversary just two days before the Beijing Winter Olympics open on Feb 4. It is responsible for the governance of more than half of the sports on the Beijing 2022 program.

"This is an incredibly exciting time for global snow sports, for China and indeed Asia," said Lewis.

"The Beijing 2022 venues look outstanding, they are state-of-the-art, fully sustainable, have achieved new benchmarks with environmental aspects, and will provide a true legacy for competitive sport and recreational snow sports after the Games.

"First of all, they will be a global showcase for the highest Olympic-level competitions and the very best athlete performances.

"Spectators around the world will be treated to exciting sports across skiing and snowboarding at the Yanqing and Zhangjiakou (competition) clusters and at the exciting Shougang Olympic Park in Beijing, where the snowboard and freeski Big Air events will take place. This will not only inspire many more Chinese citizens to participate but will also attract global visitors."

Lewis, who was secretary-general of the FIS from 2000 to 2020, announced her presidential candidacy two weeks ago. She is up against Mats Arjes and Johan Eliasch, both of Sweden, and Switzerland's Urs Lehmann in the June 4 election.

Snow sports have been a major part of Lewis' life since childhood. Having learned to ski on a dry slope at the age of 5, she went on to represent Britain at world championships and the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada.

During her tenure as secretary-general, the FIS grew its membership from 80 to 135 national associations. The Chinese Ski Association has been a member since 1981.

She has also overseen FIS activities at five Winter Olympics and was chair of the World Anti-Doping Agency Independent Observers at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics.

Lewis views the Winter Olympics as the pinnacle for attracting future athletes into the sport, and for raising global participation levels.

"Thanks to the proactive engagement of the IOC, the Beijing Games will also be the most gender-balanced Winter Games in Olympic history, with the quota of women increasing from 41 percent in Pyeongchang to over 45 percent," she said.

"This is such a powerful message to all our future athletes around the world."

Beijing 2022 will see new events contested in freestyle skiing, snowboarding, ski jumping, bobsleigh and short-track speed skating, bringing the total number of medal disciplines to 109, seven more than Pyeongchang in 2018.

"These brand new events, along with the already existing ski and snowboard disciplines, will give the broadcasters and wider media exciting opportunities to demonstrate to our Chinese and global fan bases just how thrilling these sports are-and how accessible they now are both within China and worldwide.

"I personally cannot wait to see the athletes compete in Beijing, and I very much look forward to skiing at these clusters that I now know very well, having visited many times throughout their construction over the past four years."

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