Feature: Sports boom showcases China's vitality, prosperity

(Xinhua) 13:14, January 16, 2024

BEIJING, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- Harbin, capital city of China's northernmost Heilongjiang Province, became a hit this winter as tourists across from the country flooded into the city to enjoy various ice and snow activities.

Meanwhile, thousands of kilometers to the southwest, in Rongjiang County of Guizhou Province, the new Village Super League season continued with a bang, attracting local people and tourists to flock into stadiums.

From the chilly north to warmer south, sports have been further gaining popularity among the public, while also contributing to displaying China's vitality and boosting its prosperity.


During the New Year holiday, Zhai Min had her first skiing experience in Yabuli, a renowned skiing resort in Harbin.

"I learned about the quality of snow here before, so I decided to come here. As you see, it seems like the snow piste reaches the sky, it's so magnificent," said Zhai, a tourist from southeast China's Fujian Province.

A Singaporean tourist even took Yabuli as his only international travel destination. "Normally it's summer all year round in Singapore, so skiing is quite fun for me despite the cold here," he said.

Skiing two days and staying one night in Yabuli has become an increasing option for many skiing tourists as they can immerse more in the joy of the sport.

Data shows that since its operation for the current snow season on November 9, 2023, Yabuli has received around 330,000 tourists since the start of 2024, up 66 percent compared to the same period in 2019. During the New Year holiday, Yabuli recorded an income of 17.94 million yuan (around 2.5 million U.S. dollars), with an increase of 140 percent compared to 2019.

"The resort witnessed a volume of around 10,000 tourists during peak times in a single day, especially from south China," said He Huijie, general manager of Yabuli Sun Mountain Resort, adding the resort has included more catering agencies to its list and hosted a series of skiing competitions to cater to visitors' growing demands.

In addition to winter sports, Guizhou's village football league continues to blossom as well.

Despite the current cold and rainy weather in Rongjiang, people dressed in ethnic costumes danced, sang and cheered for the players while enjoying this football gala.

The new Village Super League season kicked off on January 6, with the number of participating teams expanded from 20 to 62 this year.

Due to its down-to-earth nature and festive atmosphere, the Village Super League, dubbed "Cun Chao," became a sensation last year with millions of tourists from all over the world enjoying the pure enthusiasm for football.

He Yun, a tourist from southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, came to Rongjiang last summer for Cun Chao and has not been back to her hometown since.

"I didn't understand football but was intrigued by the local people's passion for it. I love this atmosphere and look forward to the new season," said He.

From January 6 until February 24, 62 teams will compete in the preliminaries, and matches will also be held during the upcoming Spring Festival holiday. The finals, featuring 20 teams, will be held from March to May.

According to the tournament's organizing committee, during the Spring Festival holiday, villagers from the 62 participating teams will lay on performances featuring strong festive and ethnic characteristics.

"It is targeting spurring the tourism market for the upcoming spring, and helps unleash vitality in winter," said Xu Bo, chief of Rongjiang County.

Earlier this year, the Village Super League was listed by the State General Administration of Sport as one of 54 outstanding examples for mass sports tournaments in football, basketball and volleyball.

For local villagers, the competition is not just about contending for glory, it's about fully unleashing their love for football as well.

Zhou Yongyong, 37, play in goal for the Fenghuang Village team. Most of his teammates are ordinary laborers. Football brings them together and reshapes them.

"Football has changed my life, giving us a big opportunity to show ourselves and a chance to realize our football dream," Zhou said.


Huang Ming and his wife took a four-hour flight from Guangzhou to visit Harbin Ice-Snow World.

"Since late last year, I often browsed some short videos about Harbin, which attracted us a lot," said Huang, who planned to stay four days in Harbin. Apart from Harbin Ice-Snow World, Yabuli and the "Snow Town" in the city of Mudanjiang are also on the couple's agenda.

Like Huang, touring to Harbin has been listed as a plan for many tourists, especially from the south, this winter.

In the New Year holiday, Harbin received a total of some 3.05 million tourists, raking in 5.91 billion yuan of tourism revenue. Both numbers represent record highs.

Harbin Ice-Snow World, which opened to public on December 18, 2023, received around 163,200 visitors and generated an income of 46.18 million yuan during the three-day holiday, up 435 and 494 percent year-on-year respectively.

Sporting activities have not only helped get people into a healthy lifestyle, but have also generated concrete economic benefits.

The Yabuli Ski Resort has integrated skiing with tourism, culture and several other areas, organizing over 50 activities to attract tourists.

Insiders underscore the multi-facet factors behind the tourism boom in Harbin, with one of them being the lingering effect of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

"The Beijing Winter Olympics promoted ice and snow sports among the public, drawing their attention and spurring their enthusiasm towards it. Engaging 300 million people in winter sports has actually laid the foundation for winter tourism, and the overall pattern of consumption has taken shape," said Zhang Guihai, head of Heilongjiang Ice and Snow Industry Institute.

Following the footprints of the Beijing Olympic Winter Games, the ninth Asian Winter Games in Harbin in 2025 will continue to fuel China's enthusiasm for winter sports.

In November 2023, the Heilongjiang provincial government rolled out a plan aimed at achieving high-quality development of the province's tourism, stressing on unleashing Heilongjiang's advantage in ice-and-snow tourism resources, foundation of the industry and market influence to ramp up the development of ice-and-snow economy.

"As ice and snow is our biggest characteristics, we need to capitalize on it to better take our advantages," said He Jing, director of Heilongjiang's culture and tourism department.

Rongjiang County has already reaped economic benefits since Cun Chao was launched in 2023.

From May 13 to October 28, Rongjiang attracted more than 5.19 million tourists, translating to tourism income of 5.99 billion yuan.

The booming sports activities also boosted the development of relevant industries.

Sun Guoxiu, general manager of a cultural and tourism development company in Rongjiang, said that there are more than 200 types of batik products on sale, including T-shirts, cloth bags and team logos.

Sun said that 100,000 T-shirts were sold last year, and related souvenirs and sporting equipment are being developed.

As the new season is underway, Rongjiang is striving to transform the Village Super League momentum into an economic driving force for local development so that it benefits people living in mountainous areas.

Riding the wave of Cun Chao, Rongjiang has made great strides in developing its e-commerce livestreaming, promoting ethnic artworks including silver jewelries, embroideries and batik, and local specialties like passion fruit and navel oranges, to a broader market.

During the last Cun Chao season, Rongjiang registered a revenue of over 400 million yuan in sales of agricultural products, with an increase of 58 percent.

"Combining culture, sports and tourism has become an important pathway in rural revitalization in many places of China, while adding agricultural and commerce to them will be more vital and can apply to a wider range of places to achieve success," said Yi Jiandong, a professor at Wenzhou University.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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