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Steep learning curve for Games' slope stewards

By SUN XIAOCHEN | China Daily | Updated: 2019-01-09 09:20
View of the official emblems of the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on display at the Beijing National Aquatics Center, also known as the Water Cube, in Beijing, China, on Aug 7, 2018. [Photo/IC]

Having retired from competition a decade ago, two-time Olympian Wang Jiao never thought she would suit up for a third Winter Games.

However, the freestyle skier now finds herself hitting the slopes again as one of 220 volunteers recruited by the Beijing 2022 organizing committee.

Wang, who competed at the 2002 Salt Lake and 2006 Turin Games, looked as smooth as ever on her skis during a training drill on Sunday at Thaiwoo Ski Resort in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province.

She and her fellow volunteers are learning a number of skills that often go unnoticed during competitions but are essential for alpine events to run without a hitch, such as placing and collecting gate poles and grooming courses.

"I used to enjoy the services of event staff worldwide when I was a full-time athlete. It's my turn now to switch roles to serve the athletes at my home Olympics," said Wang, a former World Cup champion who finished 11th in the freestyle aerials at the 2006 Games.

"As I was focused only on my competition before, I never realized how complicated it is to organize and run a skiing event until I began this program.

"We now feel capable of running events smoothly in 2022 thanks to the extensive on-site training and theoretical courses we've had."

The volunteer team was assembled in October, initially comprising 154 people selected from a pool of over 3,000 who had passed a medium-level skiing test.

The plan is to develop a talent reserve for Games-related services and operations, especially for snow events, where China lacks expertise in planning, alpine medical support, snow-making, and course design and grooming.

During last month's FIS Alpine Skiing Far East Cup at Wanlong Resort in Zhangjiakou, 50 members of the team had their skills tested by serving side-by-side with professional staff from the international governing body.

The complexity of the whole operation initially proved overwhelming for some.

"We had no clue of it at all in the past," admitted Lyu Hongyou, a volunteer from the Thaiwoo resort.

"Observing from up close of how the foreigners did it and learning from them side-by-side, we got to understand the basics. So hopefully we will be able to manage on our own very quickly."

Alpine skiing courses require the use of densely packed artificial snow to ensure the slope is fast enough for competitors. In the past, courses in China had only been prepared by foreign experts.

The 2022 organizing committee is planning to expose volunteers to more International Ski Federation-sanctioned events to refine their skills further.

"To prepare our own Games operation team is as important as developing our athletes as we thrive to host an excellent and extraordinary Winter Olympics in 2022," said Yan Cheng, human resource director of the Beijing 2022 organizing committee.

"We will keep expanding the scale of the team by recruiting more volunteers and stepping up their training with more detailed and practical programs," he said.

As part of the personnel training effort, Beijing sent 188 organizers to work with their South Korean counterparts during last year's Pyeongchang Winter Olympics.

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