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Winter sports boom brings startups, investment

By China Daily 31 Jul 2015

When the International Olympic Committee gathers later today in Kuala Lumpur to annouce the host city for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, there will be a cross section of companies and investors in Beijing keeping their fingers crossed.

If the Chinese capital does win the much-coveted bid, it will be a shot-in-the-arm for a fledgling industry dominated by startups and venture capital-funded firms in China.

"The winter sports market has been picking up downhill speed in recent years and seeing increased investments from startups and VC-funded firms," said Wang Xiaoyuan, founder of VIP SKI, an online-to-offline skiing service provider for skiers. Besides equipment recommendations and checkups, the company also arranges trips to various ski resorts for winter sport lovers.

Wang has been working with VIP SKI for eight years on a part-time basis, purely out of passion for the sport. However, this year he left his full-time job at an Internet company and started working only for VIP SKI.

"The growing passion for winter sports in China in recent years has been amazing, and Beijing's bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics is definitely the icing on the cake," he said.

Wang said ski resorts in China attracted more than 10 million visitors during the recent winter season, nearly double the 6 million visits recorded in 2013-14 winter season.

"Rising disposable incomes have allowed more Chinese households to venture out in winter, equipped with waterproof designer jackets and the latest skis and snowboards," said Wang.

"China's ski market is entering a golden period," he said.

It is not just Wang who exudes optimism about the winter sports sector, also referred to as the "white sector" in industry parlance.

Beijing Hualu Baina Film and TV Inc recently announced an investment of 1 billion yuan ($161 million) in Zhangjiakou, a city in the neighboring Hebei province that lies 200 kilometers northwest of Beijing and one of the event venues if Beijing wins the bid.

The investment is primarily for upgrading the winter sports facilities in the city, said the company.

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