China's sports governing body plans to prioritize the development of less-popular winter events through a $30 million project, echoing Beijing 2022's vision to promote winter sports among 300 million people.
The country's strength remains limited to a number of ice disciplines with development of snow sports and team events, such as ice hockey, still outside its mainstream.
Beijing's bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics and the exposure brought by teenager Song Andong' s drafting in the National Hockey League has provided a golden opportunity for China to make up for its weakness, according to committee officials.
"As part of our mission highlighted in the bid, we have a plan to invest $30 million to start cultivating some sports we haven't developed yet and to support those niche ones in which we are lagging behind," said Zhao Yinggang , deputy secretary-general of the bid committee and director of China's winter sports administrative center, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Wednesday.
Among the 102 sports in the Winter Olympics program, 75 have seen professional and amateur participation in China, and the government funding project will specifically support immature events such as bobsled, luge and Nordic combined, said Zhao.
If successful, Beijing's joint bid with Zhangjiakou in surrounding Hebei province will be expected to see more talents from weaker events, such as Song in ice hockey, emerge, motivated by winter sports fever, said Yao Ming, a bid ambassador.
"The 2008 (Summer) Games gave us the chance to experience the Olympic spirit and I think the 2022 Games will give us another opportunity to reach a higher level in terms of involving more people in winter sports," said the retired NBA star.
As the new face of Chinese sportsmen under the global spotlight, Beijing-born Song, who was drafted by the New York Islanders last month, was also in Kuala Lumpur, where the 2022 host city will be named on Friday, to support his home city.
"After I first heard the idea (of Beijing's bid), I was very excited," said the 18-year-old who started playing ice hockey with a Beijing club at the age of 6.
"It's a dream for any athlete to compete at the Olympics and it's a special honor to be able to do it in your home country and in the city where you grew up, so I was excited because I feel I will have the opportunity".