In China, millions of children to carry forward the Beijing 2022 Olympic flame

When the competitions are over, the medals have been handed out and the athletes are back at home, China can expect the passion generated for winter sports and the Olympic values to stay for much longer. Beijing 2022’s ambitious youth engagement and educational programmes have already inspired millions of children and teenagers to participate in and learn about winter sports and the Olympic Games.

In China, millions of children to carry forward the Beijing 2022 Olympic flame Getty Images

Created after Beijing’s successful Olympic candidature, the “Beijing 2022 Education Programme” is part of the host’s wider efforts to encourage its citizens to participate in winter sports. The initiative has already surpassed its original target of engaging 300 million people in snow and ice activities.

And by involving schools, children and young people, the programme ensures that its Olympic legacy will continue to reach the youth audience long after the Games have wrapped up.

“Olympic legacy comes in many forms”, said Christophe Dubi, the Olympic Games Executive Director. “Sports venues and infrastructure are certainly the tangible legacies of the Games, securing the continuation of sport events and improving the quality of life of the citizens. But the human capital is possibly an even more impactful aftermath. Engaging and educating children and youth about the Olympic Games and the Olympic values goes beyond sport.

“The power of inspiration, the positive energy the Olympics can generate, prepares our youth for the obstacles both in sport and in life, sparking the desire to overcome any challenge. And perhaps become an Eileen Gu or a Shaun White of the next generation. This is the unique power of the Olympic Games.”

In China, millions of children to carry forward the Beijing 2022 Olympic flame© Getty Images

In an unprecedented push to engage the younger generation in ice and snow sports, schools and educational authorities have developed a curriculum that includes winter sports knowledge and history, practical classes for beginners, and an introduction to becoming a winter sports coach. Winter sports clubs have also been set up in schools all around the country, allowing children to develop ice and snow sports skills in the warmer south as well as the cold north.

“Engaging young generations in sport is one of the most important roles for the Olympic Games,” said Marie Sallois, IOC Director for Sustainability. “Beijing 2022 has brought winter sports closer to millions of young children, helping their development, wellbeing and possibly boosting their career prospects too.”

Those with easier access to snow and ice sports can enrol in winter sports education including skiing, ice skating, ice hockey, curling and other Olympic disciplines. Those further away from the snow have been practising “dry land” versions of winter sports, and received theory classes, interactive training and courses incorporating the Olympic values such as fair play, respect, tolerance and peace.By the end of 2021, more than 2,800 schools across the country had integrated winter sports into their curriculum, with thousands of primary schools, middle schools and colleges set to do so in the future. The educational programmes are a definite legacy of Beijing 2022, and most of them will continue up to 2025, with the aim of reaching millions of children post-Games.

In China, millions of children to carry forward the Beijing 2022 Olympic flame© Beijing 2022

A digital “Olympic curriculum”

Sports education is proved to have a positive impact on physical and mental health. It also helps to relieve stress, and build team and organisational skills. And when COVID-19 restrictions made participation harder, organisers made sure that children and teenagers could follow a digital “Olympic curriculum”.  Some classes were conducted through websites and broadcasters, with the online materials viewed more than 140 million times. Videos, motion graphics, tutorials and games were all part of digital efforts to bring the Olympic Games and winter sports closer to the young. Short clips have gone viral, attracting more than 70 million viewers online.

“Children were one of the hardest hit groups in the pandemic and we wanted to absolutely make sure the programme carried on despite the restrictions,” said Chen Liu, Beijing 2022 Education Programme Manager. “That’s why we developed digital games, contests and learning materials to make sure we can raise awareness and inspire young people to stay active despite these difficult circumstances.”

A key consideration for Beijing 2022 was to make sure access to winter sports was spread as widely as possible among the whole of society. “There are so many benefits to participating in and learning about winter sports and Olympic values,” said Liu. “These benefits should spread to kids all over the country, in cities and in the countryside.”

In China, millions of children to carry forward the Beijing 2022 Olympic flame© Getty Images

The Olympic curriculum has also been extended to schools for children with special needs, by adapting the programmes to students with impairments. This includes ensuring equal access for various populations in China through significant infrastructure investments to create more accessible venues. The “Ice Rink Programme”, for example, foresees the creation of nearly 1,000 ice rinks in over 100 cities across China, made available to the public free of charge or at an affordable price.

Thanks to the Games, more and more young people have expressed interest in becoming professional athletes. And to keep them practising ahead of the next Olympic Winter Games, “Mini Winter Olympics” will be organised annually. The last ones attracted more than 1,700 children and look set to keep growing, based on their success so far.  

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