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Winter sports industry faces talent gap

By Yutang Sports 05 Jan 2017

After winning the bid for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in 2015, the General Administration of Sport, related government departments and local governments have issued quite a few policies and plans, which have provided clear guidance and policy support for winter sports development. The Winter Sports Development Plan (2016-1025) has explicitly stated that by 2022, there will be over 50 million direct winter sports participants in China, while also “encouraging 0.3 billion people to take part in winter sports.” The objective of getting 0.3 billion people to take part in winter sports not only involves increasing the number of sports consumers and corresponding stadiums and facilities, but also increasing the quantity and quality of winter sports personnel. 

According to the China Winter Sports Industry Research Report by Chuancai Securities and the report of a  Wechat media outlet Bingxuetoutiao, over the past 20 years, the number of ski resorts participants in China has been growing rapidly. At present, there are more than 700 ski resorts, and it is estimated that this number will double and reach 1500 by 2025, not to mention the thousands of skating rinks which will be built. By that time, the talent gap in the winter sports industry will be over 100,000, including professionals for skating and ski training, equipment operation, stadium operation, equipment maintenance and so on. 

Fan Jun, a figure skater back in the 1980s, founded the first Century Star Skating Club in 1999, which has become a leader in the winter sports industry. Now it has expanded to 26 clubs in 17 cities. 

As explained by Fan Jun, currently there are less than 300 figure skating coaches in China. It takes a long period of practice to become a qualified skating coach, and this can’t be achieved in a short time. Set against the plan of building 500 more skating rinks by 2022, it is highly possible that there will be the embarrassing situation of “on average less than 1 coach per rink” in the future. And the situation of the professional teams is even worse. Fan Jun mentions that in his hometown, Jilin, a major province of winter sports, there are only 5 figure skaters in the professional team. “Nowadays, parents are not willing to send their kids to a professional sports team, as the training is too tough. Only the poor families are willing to send their kids for training, but it is hard to develop talents this way." 

As for another ice sport - ice hockey, there are less than 1,000 registered players over the age of 20 nationwide, while the number in Canada is 610,000. In 1981, the Chinese Men’s Ice Hockey Team successfully advanced to the B-level in the Ice Hockey World Championship, which aroused an upsurge of interest in ice hockey in China. However, it didn’t become popular in China for a number of reasons. Although there have been more kids playing ice hockey in recent years, with 2,000 in Beijing alone, there is a giant age gap with 80% under the age of 10. At the 2022 Winter Olympic Games which will be held here in 5 years, due to the country’s present low ranking, China could be the first host of the Winter Olympic Games that isn’t able to field a team in the ice hockey competition. 

Talent has become the primary obstacle of winter sports development. Fan Jun frankly states that from teaching and training, event operation, marketing and promotion to the subdivisions including stadium operation and professional equipment operation and maintenance, the Chinese winter sports industry is facing a talent gap of over 200,000. 

Source: Sohu Sports, mini.eastday

Proofread by Sean O Diobhilin

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