Pakistan may look to China for winter sports development
The Beijing Winter Olympics 2022 opening ceremony was held on 4 February 2022. The modern winter Olympics started in 1924 however, and this was the most challenging Olympics event to date. Keeping in mind the current situation of Covid, China has pulled it off in a fabulous fashion.
Unfortunately, there was only one Pakistani skier, the 26-year-old Muhammad Karim, who is competing for a medal in alpine skiing. The lack of Pakistani participants, however, did not curb the enthusiasm of the Pakistani crowd at the event as they roared in applause when the Pakistani flag bearer came on stage. The lack of Pakistani participants is largely due to the fact that the infrastructure for winter sports in Pakistan is minimal, and the one that exists is usually for leisure sports.
Additionally, the existing infrastructure clusters in the natural scenic spots in the northern areas of Pakistan. This however is too dangerous for beginners, and this creates a barrier for entry. The country can look to its good neighbour China for valuable experience as developments have been made to improve winter sports facilities in the country.
The Chinese have achieved what seemed impossible, which is setting up an entire industry of winter sports facilities in a matter of a few years. The setup of factories in Zhangjiakou has significantly reduced the cost of sports gear which allowed the layman to also partake in these activities. Additionally, the building of the Ice Ribbon is nothing short of a marvel. Pakistan is hoping to replicate the success of China by not only providing cheaper equipment but also safe spots for skiing and ice skating in the northern region of Pakistan.
Both the Pakistani federal and local Gilgit Government are keen on improving the facilities for winter sports and are willing to learn from the success of China. China is also willing to expand trade ties with Pakistan into sports ties as well.
Better facilities will increase the interest in winter sports among the residents of Pakistan that will in turn increase the number of winter sports athletes in the country.
There may be only one Pakistani Olympian this time around, but with increasing facilities and more interest in such sports, surely we are going to see more Pakistani athletes not only participating but also winning medals for the nation. For now, I wish Muhammad Karim the best of luck and we hope he brings home the first ever Pakistani winter Olympic win.