There is plenty to look forward to when the world’s biggest winter sport event will for the first time be held in its most populous country. The buzz around the Winter Games has 300 million Chinese expected to get involved in winter sports, and a rising number of kids have been learning to play ice hockey across the country.
“This has been a difficult time for sport and for the world, but we have not stopped our preparations so that in one year we can welcome the world’s top athletes for the Winter Games,” said IIHF President René Fasel. “I truly hope that together the IOC and all international Olympic Federations can help to drive a new generation into winter sports, and get more young Chinese boys and girls to pick up hockey sticks and hit the ice.”
Beside people learning the game, China is also in the midst of preparing to organize and participate in the Games. Candidates for the men’s and women’s national teams have been preparing within the country where national championships have been held recently as well as abroad. The Kunlun Red Star teams continue to compete in the top Russian men’s and women’s leagues, although due to travel restrictions both teams stay in Russia for this season with their home bases in the Moscow Region.
In China the Beijing Organising Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (BOCOG) continues its work on building venues and recruiting manpower for the various sports. The National Indoor Stadium and the Wukesong Sports Centre will be used for the ice hockey tournaments. They are being transformed for ice hockey and extended with additional ice sheets for practices and dressing rooms.
The 18,826-seat National Indoor Stadium was constructed for the 2008 Olympics and sometimes nicknamed The Fan with the architecture resembling a traditional folding fan. In 2008 gymnastics, handball and trampolining events were held and last month it got its ice sheet for the Winter Olympics. The venue will primarily host the men’s ice hockey tournament.
To install the refrigeration floor and as part of the reconstruction, the field of play level was raised about 60 centimetres. 14 permanent dressing rooms have been established with all the necessary functions rooms for team staff included. All venues will have 60-on-26-metre ice sheets, which are more commonly used in North America.
A new Ice Sports Centre has been built right next to the competition venue with two indoor and in future also one outdoor ice rink. With the maximal configuration there can be up to five ice rinks available at one spot leaving a legacy for ice sports in the future. During the 2022 Olympics the venue will be home to the women’s ice hockey tournament but also host a few games of the men’s tournament.
“China is fast paced, so is BOCOG and we have already reached the required status for venues and are in the middle of finalizing all of our workforce arrangements. The Ice Hockey Team and also all the other team members are really dedicated and work very hard to meet the standards and beyond,” said BOCOG Sport Advisor Harald Springfeld. “We are on a good way to make China proud and we also hope that with our preparation to conduct the event successful, safe and excellent, the ice sport and especially ice hockey development in China and Asia will experience a big boost.”
“We are working every day very hard to reach our goals and to meet the necessary IOC and IIHF standards,” said Sport Manager Duan Jufang. “Now we are working within the venues and are next to other functional areas. With this the preparation does get another push as we move towards our test activities in April and August/September.”
Don Moffat came to China for the ice making and was also involved in the last Winter Olympics as well.
“From what I saw here the last two weeks it is coming good,” said Moffat, the Chief Ice Maker. “The transformation from a summer to a winter Olympic venue is impressive. We will have another two tests later this year in which we will further work on required ice making and ice maintenance operations in order to ensure the required service level and venue operations.”
During the past two years there have also been several selection events and trainings programs for national technical officials for ice hockey and para ice hockey, most recently with 67 national technical officials at the national ice hockey championship held in December 2020 in Tengchong in the Yunnan province where the IIHF’s statistical system was used to train the off-ice officials for Beijing 2022 and beyond.
With current travel restrictions in place, virtual tours have been held to keep IIHF representatives up to date.
Who will play in Olympic ice hockey next year? Check out Part II of today’s coverage.