A Series of Meetings and Celebratory Events in China's Capital City this week marked the Launch the China-Finland Year of Winter Sports 2019 to strengthen cooperative partnerships between China and Finland in Winter Sports.
BEIJING, China -- Government representatives from China and Finland met this week in Beijing for the official launch of the China-Finland Year of Winter Sports 2019. The joint partnership theme year marks the first of this kind of bilateral cooperation in sports between China and another country.
In 2022, Beijing will become the first city to have ever hosted both the Summer and Winter Olympics. While China has not been traditionally known as a strong winter sports nation, Finland's winter sports culture is deep-rooted into the everyday lives of its people. As China prepares to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, the country has also set the goal of developing 300 million winter sports enthusiasts.
The People's Republic of China and Finland have a long history in sports cooperation. Soon after forming diplomatic relations in 1950, China sent a team to the Helsinki 1952 Olympic Games. In order to build a strong winter sports culture, China has allocated resources to develop the infrastructure around winter sports. Major investments are being made in the development of physical education in schools, Sport for All-movement, and mass sports all the way to high-performance sports.
Ms. Anne-Mari Virolainen, Finland's Minister for Foreign Trade and Development, has led a Business Delegation to the high-level opening week of the China Finland Year of Winter Sports 2019 in Beijing.
"I am happy to observe the positive development between Finland and China over the past few years. China is our most important trade partner in Asia and the fourth largest trade partner globally. I believe this special year of cooperation can offer many highly interesting opportunities for Finnish and local companies as well their public sectors, leading up to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and beyond." – Anne-Mari Virolainen, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development of Finland.
The China-Finland Year of Winter Sports is a collaboration on many levels between the cities, areas, and businesses of Finland and China. Both sides will collaborate with government representatives, cities and companies as well as sports organizations and sports institutes. The theme year will not only be about sports but also extend to culture, education, research and training. Besides governmental cooperation, the businesses and everyday people are expected to benefit from the collaboration.
"For China's goal to reach 300 million new winter sports enthusiasts and to build the infrastructure to support this, Finland has a lot to offer. We may be a small nation, but our expertise and opportunities in winter sports covers a vast array of products and services, especially in training and coaching, sport infrastructure including sustainable, ecological and smart building solutions, sports technology development and production of sports equipment, organizing sustainable major sport events, physical education in schools, recreational winter sports, and increasing winter sport tourism. The cooperation between our countries has already begun to thrive, especially when it comes to coaching and training centres." – Sampo Terho, Minister for European Affairs, Culture and Sports of Finland.
In the run-up to the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics 2022 and beyond as well as supporting the China-Finland Year of Winter Sports 2019, Business Finland has established a Finland Winter Sports Cluster in order to further develop potential business cooperation and platforms, and to provide comprehensive solutions for supporting the growth of a winter sports culture in China. The Finnish Winter Sports Cluster evaluates business leads in winter sports-related projects, finds right partners and organizes events and match makings for Finnish and Chinese companies.
"We are very pleased that the winter sports opportunities in China have generated great interest among Finnish companies and cities. This week has already signed over 15 Memoranda of Understanding between Finnish and Chinese partners. Winter sport is an integral part of everything we do in Finland. Finland is committed in long term cooperation with China in its aspirations to reach the top in winter sports both in the success of its winter athletes and in building a strong winter sports culture in China." – Petri Tulensalo, Head of the Finnish Winter Sports Cluster.
Tourism to Finland also stands to benefit from the China-Finland year of sports. Finland is already known as a winter destination, famous for the northern lights and Santa Claus, ice and snow. Finland is also a destination of great ski resorts, excellent sporting academies and a number of high-quality coaching and sport educational institutes and facilities. Finland has the cleanest air in the world and it offers safety, purity and space for those families, groups and individuals learning to ski.
In recent years, the number of Chinese visitors to Finland has grown strongly. In 2018, we expect to have reached 400,000 overnights spent by the Chinese Mainland and Hong Kong passport holders up significantly from only 150,000 in 2014. Finland is well connected to China thanks to its geographical location and direct flights between Helsinki and seven cities across China. In 2019, the first Chinese airlines will also begin flights to Finland, with Tibet Airlines opening a new tri-weekly direct flight between Helsinki and Jinan, Shangdong on April 8th and Juneyao Airlines launching daily direct flights between Helsinki and Shanghai on June 28th. In addition, Finnair will launch double-daily flights between Hong Kong and Helsinki in the summer.
"During this official winter sports theme year between Finland and China, we hope to build Finland as an attractive destination for winter activities and sports for the Chinese market. The future Chinese 300 million winter sports enthusiasts create a huge touristic opportunity for Finnish ski resorts all over the country, providing work opportunities for professional ski instructors and skiing schools. Finland can offer also low-threshold winter sports teaching by professional skiing instructors in skiing resorts, to beginners of winter sport as a hobby." – Paavo Virkkunen, Executive Director, Business Finland Oy & Head of Visit Finland.
In order to further inspire China's people to try Winter Sports in Finland during 2019, Visit Finland has appointed Chinese Actor, Mr. Wang Kai as Official Envoy of Finland Winter Travel. Visit Finland will launch a new campaign entitled "Feel the World", with Sina Weibo and Beijing Better Life Media & Communication and featuring Wang Kai's experiences in Finland over China's upcoming Spring Festival.
"It is with great honour that I have been chosen as Visit Finland's Winter Envoy, and I hope to encourage many more Chinese to visit Finland and try out Winter Sports. In my time visiting Finland I've grown a deep love for the country and I can't express how wonderful my experience was. Finland is an amazing country to experience in winter and I'm so thrilled to have this remarkable opportunity to share my experiences with my home country of China." – Wang Kai, Official Envoy of Finland Winter Travel.
The China Finland Year of Winter Sports 2019 will conclude with official Closing Ceremonies in Rovaniemi, Finland in December 2019.