Beijing, Feb 21 (EFE).- The Beijing Winter Olympics, held behind closed doors because of the pandemic, generated a wide following on television and social media in China that the host country hopes to capitalize on.
Over 600 million Chinese people followed the Winter Olympics that came to an end on Sunday on television, while Games-related topics attracted over 2.5 billion hits on social media.
US-born Chinese athlete and model Eileen Gu – known as Gu Ailing in China — shone on social media, as did the mascot Bing Dwen Dwen, who was the topic of over 4.5 billion discussions on the Chinese Twitter-like Weibo.
However, the spectators ban because of coronavirus deprived organizers of a major income source, as the few tickets that were available were assigned by invitation.
As a part of a strict anti-Covid strategy, athletes, delegations and journalists from abroad remained in a tightly-controlled bubble without any contact with the local population.
Most of the coronavirus cases reported among the Olympic stakeholders were detected at the airport upon entering the country.
Sponsors were present; including US’ Visa and Coca-Cola, despite a Washington-led boycott over alleged human rights abuses in the Muslim majority region of Xinjiang, which Beijing denies.
Meanwhile, the Chinese media on Monday described the event as “splendid”, stressing that Beijing delivered a safe Games as promised.
The event was also an opportunity to showcase the so-called “efficiency” of the Communist regime despite critics’ complaints.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of China on Monday denounced that “the conditions for independent reporting in China continue to fall short of international standards during the Winter Olympic Games.”
Beijing is also looking to snow and ice sports to stimulate private spending, which has struggled to recover post-Covid, largely based on exports and infrastructure spending.
Although the official budget of the Olympic Games was modest, at about $3.8 billion, consultants estimate that some $80 billion were spent on building facilities and the transport grid.
The infrastructure also included a bullet train connecting Beijing with the town of Zhangjiakou, another venue for the event.
Official data shows that nearly 350 million Chinese have already participated in snow or ice sports, exceeding the goal set for 2022.
This was made possible thanks to the country’s 654 skating rinks and 803 ski resorts – both indoors and outdoors – 317% and 41% more than just seven years ago respectively.
Many of these centers are in the northeastern provinces of the country, which in recent years has gone through a deindustrialization process that has left them at the tail end of China’s frenetic development.
“We used to receive between 500 and 600 skiers a day and we almost doubled that figure,” coach Wei Qun told state broadcaster CCTV from the Liaoning region.
Chinese people made 230 million trips related to these sports in winter 2020-21, generating revenue of 390 billion yuan ($61.6 billion), according to the culture and tourism ministry.
Officials forecast that the industry will generate revenues of up to one trillion yuan ($157.8 million) between now and 2025. EFE