As China embraces the start of the one-year countdown for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, a top tourism official in Tyrol, the Austrian state that has hosted two Winter Olympics, says he is confident that "China is capable of preparing and hosting the Winter Olympics just perfectly".
Florian Phleps, head of the Tyrol Tourism Board, said his comments were based on the "meticulous preparation and realization back in 2008" when Beijing presented Summer Olympics to the world, coupled with his own observations during a visit to the country three years ago.
"I was impressed about the scale (of) China handling huge projects in ridiculously short time frames," Phleps said.
The lighting of the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony in Beijing on Feb 4, 2022, will be of great historic significance to the nation. Not only will this be the first Winter Olympics ever held in China, but it will also see the Chinese capital become the first city in the world to have hosted both summer and winter events.
Because of the lack of snowfall in the area, Beijing might have to rely heavily on artificial snow for the 2022 games.
Phleps conceded that while Tyrol, one of the front-runners in Alpine winter sports, is blessed with high-altitude skiing areas and good amounts of natural snow, it is almost impossible to provide ideal conditions for professional winter sport events without man-made snow.
"Some of the global players of the industry are founded and based in Tyrol, and they are also involved in the development of many Chinese skiing areas," he said. "This experience shows me that man-made snow will not be a problem at all."
Innsbruck, the capital of Tyrol, hosted the Winter Olympics for the first time in 1964, establishing the region's global reputation as a popular winter sports destination.
It was seen as a fluke that 12 years later the Tyrolean city got to host the Games again after Denver in the United States, the original host city, withdrew in 1972 at short notice.
Phleps said there is no doubt that hosting the Winter Olympics twice triggered a lot that would not have happened without them.
"The things that first come to mind are, of course, the stadiums and tracks that are newly built and will not only become new sports facilities for the people, but also landmarks and concrete proof of the Olympic Games," he said. "But even more than this, it is the intangible legacy that stays.
"You can hardly measure the effects of this kind of legacy, but I am a hundred percent sure that the success of Tyrol as a worldwide known winter holiday destination was influenced by the fact that we were able to be the center of this sparkling Olympic world twice already," he added.
The essence of Tyrol's success in hosting countless international sports events lies in the interaction of athletes and fans from all over the world. "It is this interaction that creates the event itself," Phleps said.
Beijing's successful bid in 2015 to host the 2022 Winter Olympics has been the catalyst for the rapid growth of winter sports in China. The number of skiers in China reached 13.05 million in 2019, up from 9.6 million in 2015, an increase of 36 percent, according to the latest China Ski Industry White Paper.
The China Tourism Academy expects the country's ice and snow leisure tourism sector to see 230 million visits from 2020 to 2021, and its revenue is projected to surpass 390 billion yuan ($60.4 billion).
Phleps believes this trend will continue to grow, fueled by the Beijing 2022 Olympics.
"Olympic Games are something special. And you can hardly overestimate the power that comes with Olympic Games for many years to come. They inspire the people. Especially children will get in touch with new kinds of sports they probably have not known.
"Being the first city to host winter and summer Olympics provides a unique constellation, and I would not wonder if a Chinese skiing or snowboard athlete some years ahead will successfully compete with our Austrian athletes," Phleps said.