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Expo to showcase snowy solutions

As the 2022 Olympics approach, winter sports experts and industry leaders continue to flock to China to offer their advice, support and products. The fourth edition of the World Winter Sports (Beijing) Expo will gather the bulk of that expertise under one roof, from Oct 17-20, at the China National Convention Center in Beijing.

From skiing simulators to virtual-reality resort tours and the latest in high-tech gear, the expo promises to be a veritable treat for winter sports enthusiasts, organizers and business people alike.

The expo, which was first held in 2016 a year after Beijing won the right to host the 2022 Olympics, will this year focus on how infrastructure, the tourism sector and the mass promotion of winter sports will operate after the Games, using exhibits, presentations and brainstorming forums.

The globe's major winter sports powers, including Austria, Switzerland, France and Finland, in the 30,000 square meter exhibit area.

With China ambitiously valuing its winter sports market at 1 trillion yuan ($144 billion) by 2025, drawing on the experience of these major players will be key, say organizers.

"The expo has set the stage for all the strong winter sports nations in the world to demonstrate the best practice for us to facilitate preparations for the 2022 Olympics and to boost development of the winter sports sector through extensive exchanges," said Liu Jingmin, executive vice-president of the Beijing Olympic City Development Association.

The association, established after the 2008 Summer Games, has been co-organizing the expo with partner International Data Group since its inception. This year's event is expected to attract 600 brands and 160,000 visitors.

As this year's honorary guest, Finland is keen to showcase how it is helping China develop athletes and improve its organization of snow events and resort operation, said Jarno Syrjala, Finnish ambassador to China.

"Finland has a lot to offer in the training of athletes, construction of facilities and organization of international events and is committed to cooperating with China to prepare for 2022 and beyond," Syrjala said on Wednesday.

Initiated by the two countries' top leaders in 2017, the China-Finland Year of Winter Sports was launched in January to roll out a series of exchanges including a long-term training program for Chinese national teams at Finland's Vuokatti Olympic Training Center.

There, Finnish coaches are working with hundreds of Chinese cross-country skiers, biathletes, snowboarders and ski jumpers preparing for the 2022 Games.

"The level of Chinese athletes' individual skills is not on the elite level, but their potential is world-class. The goal is clear that we want to help them be the best," said Veikko Halonen, CEO of Vuokatti.

Finland, where locals jest that babies are born with skis on their feet, has won more than 160 Winter Olympic medals since 1924.

As part of China's ambition to involve 300 million people in ice and snow activities by 2022, the country had built 738 ski resorts and 334 indoor skating rinks by June 2018, while winter sports facilities and tourism spots received 197 million visits during the 2017-18 season, a 16 percent annual increase, according to official figures.

Impressive as those numbers are, China's winter sports culture and operational expertise remain underdeveloped, highlighted by a number of fatal accidents and general customer dissatisfaction at major ski resorts in recent years.

The nation needs to get quality and safety up to speed with its industry growth, reckons Florian Hajzer, general manager of Italian snowmaking brand TechnoAlpin's China branch.

"Looking at what's been happening in the ice and snow industry around the world, in no country is there something comparable to what's happening in China," said Hajzer, who's been studying and working in China for seven years.

"To be completely honest, this is not rocket science. But all the events and facilities need to be done with quality, while the Chinese are still on a learning curve."

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