Services fair exhibitors impressed by Winter Olympics venue
Shougang Park, a steel mill-turned cultural and sports complex in western Beijing, is hosting some exhibitions and forums for this years China International Fair for Trade in Services (CIFTIS) from Sept. 2 to 7.
Once the industrial heart of the Chinese capital, Shougang Park has taken on a new look as the headquarters of the Organizing Committee for the Beijing 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games and some game venues. Its winter sports facilities and exhibitions have attracted many exhibitors attending the CIFTIS.
"I didn't expect Shougang Park to be so big and so well-built," said 46-year-old Anura Banda from Sri Lanka. He came to Beijing in 1995, but it was his first visit to the park on Friday.
As the CEO of a Sri Lankan black tea trading company, he attended the themed cultural exhibition of countries along the Belt and Road.
Having lived in Beijing for years, he witnessed the "rise of western Beijing" with more and more new buildings and landmarks, and now Shougang Park.
Founded in 1919, Shougang, meaning "capital steel" in the Chinese language, is an epitome of China's industrial history. Entering the 21st century, Shougang was relocated to neighboring Hebei Province in 2010, and the vast complex was included in the first batch of China's industrial heritage protection list.
Eight thematic exhibitions supporting forums and side events of this year's CIFTIS took place for the first time in Shougang Park. The total exhibition area covered about 94,000 square meters.
Anura has brought 24 Sri Lankan black tea flavors to the exhibition, including blackcurrant, caramel, and peach.
"Chinese people are pretty inclusive and welcome various cultures. Sri Lankan black tea is popular among Chinese young people and sells well," he said.
Over 20 years ago, Anura studied at Beijing Sport University to further his martial arts skills and chose to stay after graduation.
"My wife still works in the sports industry, and we are very much looking forward to the Beijing Winter Olympics," he said.
The park has become the headquarters of the Beijing Winter Olympics since 2016. The remains of the former repair workshop, coking plant, and blast furnace retain the "steel memory" of the past, while the ice and snow sports facilities such as ski jumping platforms now attract people's attention.
"The steel plant has been transformed into a cultural and exhibition venue for the Winter Olympics. The venue's use for dual purposes is remarkable. And I think that shows the innovative mode of thinking," said Sobah Rasheed, deputy ambassador of the Republic of Maldives to China.
"Events like this are rare [during the pandemic]. The movement of large crowds under one roof in safety and good health shows the resilience of the Chinese health infrastructure, which is exemplary," he said.
The opening ceremony of the World Winter Sports (Beijing) Expo also took place in the park on Friday morning.
Juan Antonio Samaranch Jr., chairman of IOC Coordination Committee for Beijing 2022, said via video link that the Shougang Park in Beijing is living proof of the game's legacy and sustainability.
"Once a very complicated and contaminating industrial complex, now it's a combination of sports parks and sports facilities. And it's open now for the general public to enjoy a wonderful new part of our dear Beijing," he said.
As the guest country, Italy exhibited snowboards, ski clothing, protective gear, outdoor tents, and other products related to ice and snow sports at the park.
Paolo Bazzoni, chairman of the China-Italy Chamber of Commerce, said the increasing interest of Chinese consumers in ice and snow sports provided massive development space for Italian enterprises.
"The upcoming winter Olympic games in both China and Italy will increase the exchange of best practices between the two countries and, given the 2026 Olympics, boost the tourism and hospitality sector in Italy," he said.