Golden legacy of Olympics: Venues that enrich lives of millions

Women competing in a 3,000-metre race in the newly built National Speed Skating Oval in downtown Beijing on February 5. LI JUN / CHINA NEWS SERVICE
Women competing in a 3,000-metre race in the newly built National Speed Skating Oval in downtown Beijing on February 5. LI JUN / CHINA NEWS SERVICE

Published: Fri 11 Feb 2022, 10:59 AM

Last updated: Fri 11 Feb 2022, 11:00 AM

Beijing’s vision of hosting a sustainable Winter Olympics is materialising in a big way, with the Games’ venues and projects primed to benefit local communities and the economy far beyond the closing ceremony.

Chinese organisers have focused not merely on delivering an excellent and safe Games on schedule, but have banked on venues, services and infrastructure to facilitate sustainable regional development and boost people’s well-being.

Owners and operators have drawn up post-Games plans for all newly built venues, and efforts relating to ecological conservation, reducing carbon emissions and long-term winter sports promotion have yielded positive results, a sustainability report issued by the organising committee shortly before the Games opened on February 4 said.

“This report shows that Beijing 2022 recognises the responsibility to integrate sustainability principles throughout all stages of the Games’ preparation,” International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach said.

“Already now, these Games are providing tangible social and economic benefits for the people in Zhangjiakou and Yanqing.”

Preparations for the Games, featuring measures such as repurposing existing venues, energy-efficient architecture and eco-friendly refrigeration, are expected to shed light on a green and sustainable future for people and businesses in the three competition zones of downtown Beijing, the northwestern district of Yanqing and the co-host, Zhangjiakou, in Hebei province.

The reuse of venues built for the 2008 Summer Games in downtown Beijing, such as the transforming the National Aquatics Centre into a venue for curling, and changing the Wukesong Arena from a venue for basketball to one for ice hockey, set the standard for post-Games operations of permanent Olympic venues.

“The point is not to refurbish old venues and turn them into something totally different,” said Liu Yumin, director of planning, construction and sustainable development of the Beijing 2022 organising committee. “It’s to diversify the functions of these venues and make them compatible with various purposes while expanding their businesses.”

In the National Speed Skating Oval, the only newly built competition venue for the Games in downtown Beijing, a cooling system uses carbon dioxide as a clean refrigerant, instead of the harmful substance Freon, to make ice for skating tracks.

It is the first time in Olympic history that CO2 refrigerant has been used at a competition venue of such scale, and organisers said they expect to transfer the cooling system to more commercial rinks and skating centres after the Games.

The design of the 12,000-square-metre ice surface at the venue, compared with traditional speed skating venues with only an oval-shaped circle track, leaves enough rink space at the centre to accommodate more activities, such as curling, figure skating and hockey, said Li Sen, director of Beijing 2022’s general planning department.

“It will help diversify business operations for the venue owner after 2022. Grassroots winter sports promotion and recreational activities could be staged here as well in the breaks between world-class speed skating events.”

Impressive sustainable efforts outlined in the report also include the ecological conservation, natural environment protection and water-saving projects implemented at mountain venues in Yanqing and Chongli district of Zhangjiakou, where the construction of ski slopes, athletes’ villages and snow-making facilities were carried out under the guidance of experts to avoid disturbing wild animals, forest destruction and wasting resources.

At the foot of the National Alpine Skiing Centre on Xiaohaituo Mountain in Yanqing, more than 24,000 trees were transplanted from ski runs to two nearby forest parks totalling 53 hectares in area.

More than 90 per cent of the transplanted trees have survived and flourished in their new home, the district government said.

“From using 2008 venues to the many measures to minimise environmental impact and reduce carbon emissions, all these initiatives underline the commitment of Beijing 2022 to contribute to sustainable development in China,” Bach said.

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