Ramping up the Olympic operation


Host resort raring to test new state-of-the-art facilities on world's best, Sun Xiaochen reports. China Daily.


Five years ahead of schedule, Genting Resort Secret Garden is equipped to host the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

The renowned skiing destination in Zhangjiakou, Beijing's co-host city in Hebei province, has upgraded its facilities and recently unveiled China's first Olympic-standard halfpipe ramp to host a series of International Ski Federation (FIS) events leading up to the 2022 Games.

The permanent structure will have its first competitive test when the second leg of the FIS Freeski and Snowboard Halfpipe World Cup series takes place from Dec 19-22, doubling as a qualifier for February's 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea.

About 80 world-class athletes from 20 countries will compete at the hair-raising event in which skiers and snowboarders perform spectacular tricks in the air by launching themselves skywards off the 185-meter semicircular ramp. Judges score performances based on criteria such as trick execution, variety, amplitude and pipe use.

China's female snowboarding world champion Liu Jiayu and Zhang Yiwei, the first Chinese man to win a Halfpipe World Cup title, will lead the local charge against the sport's finest, including 19-year-old Japanese sensation Ayumu Hirano, who won silver in the men's event at the 2014 Sochi Olympics in Russia.

Games organizers are understandably keen to learn from the event as they seek to perfect procedures for 2022.

"It's very challenging to build such a facility because we didn't have any experience in this discipline," said Li Yang, an official in charge of snowboarding at the National Winter Sports Administrative Center.

"Now having the best athletes in the world use it (the halfpipe ramp) will help us learn how to manage it for the eventual operation in 2022."

Genting built the halfpipe ramp before the 2016-17 snow season, but tweaked it to generate extra speed and height with the help of an international team led by American Tyson Goodrich, who was involved in course design at the Sochi Games.

"The halfpipe is FIS-approved now and it has already met the requirements for hosting the Olympics with five years to go," said Zhao Qiong, Genting's marketing director.

Zhang, himself a snowboarder of renown, is confident the upgrade will produce spectacular results.

"The facility is just as good as those elite-class halfpipes around the world," said Zhang, the first boarder in the world to execute a triple cork (three flips front side off the jump) in 2015.

Experts insist getting as much in-competition testing as possible is crucial ahead of 2022.

"Winter sports, especially skiing, remain in their infancy in China," said Lin Xianpeng, a sports management professor at Beijing Sport University.

"Facility-wise, it won't be a problem, but we need more international expertise in how to get the best out of these facilities at international events."

Before the halfpipe competition, Genting will also host another FIS World Cup event - for freestyle ski aerials on Dec 16 and 17. Around 70 skiers from 13 countries will compete in the discipline, in which athletes take off from a snow jump to perform high-flying stunts.

As a world power in aerials, China has hosted the event 13 consecutive times, mostly in northeastern provinces.

"Although the event won't be held at the exact Genting course proposed for the 2022 Olympics this time, it will still improve our know-how for the Games," said Yan Xiaojuan, an official from the Winter Sports Administrative Center.

During both World Cup events in Genting, the fun-filled Snow Pack Winter Festival will also take place, featuring activities such as snow soccer and snow-ball fighting.

The resort, which boasts 41 ski runs, totaling 22 kilometers in length, and five high-speed cable lines, will also host the FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championships in 2021 as a major test for the 2022 Olympics.