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Test run underway with one year to go

2021-02-23 11:30:00 Xinhuanet

By sportswriters Dong Yixing, Lu Xingji

BEIJING, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- When an athlete finally launched off from the "Big Air" platform at the National Ski Jumping Center for the first time, staff members from the operations team burst into tears.

With one year to go until the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games, an adapted testing program is well underway in the Yanqing and Zhangjiakou competition zones.

Although the scale of the test events has been reduced due to pandemic-related concerns, six competition venues and three operation teams in Yanqing and Zhangjiakou are being tested in Games-time scenarios, with stringent anti-COVID-19 measures in place.

"It's not easy," said Mu Yong, deputy director of the National Ski Jumping Center. "We've prepared for a long time and endured a number of difficulties and hardships."

WORLD-CLASS COMPETITION VENUES

All 10 bobsleigh, skeleton, and luge events set to feature at Beijing 2022 are being staged at the National Sliding Center in Yanqing in accordance with Olympic standards.

A group of domestic athletes and technical officials are invited to the competition venues for the adapted testing program, aiming to conduct necessary test operations on infrastructure.

"The women's single bobsleigh event is the first official bobsleigh event ever held in China. It is also an official big test for the National Sliding Center," said Zhang Xudong, competition director at the Center.

"We hope that through this test program, we can identify problems and come up with solutions in advance."

A women's single bobsleigh athlete told reporters that the track is very smooth. "With many curves, especially a 360-degree curve, it is interesting but challenging to have a good result," she said.

That was echoed by Normunds Kotans, a former Latvian bobsledder who has become an expert for the Olympics.

"Yanqing Sliding Center is the greatest venue from different perspectives where I have been and worked at. There are a lot of advantages here," said Kotans.

"There are very good facilities for athletes. Everything is very thought through for the athletes. So I'm sure that everyone who will come here will really enjoy this venue."

Meanwhile, in Zhangjiakou, the level of competition venues has also been acknowledged by foreign experts.

"This test is a fundamental step to deliver successful events. And for me, already now, these test events have been very successful, not only for the sport, [but also] for the mountain operations," said course design expert Davide Cerato.

LOGISTICS SUPPORT ON STANDBY

In addition to competition venues and facilities, medical support capability is also a fundamental aspect being evaluated during the test program.

A doctor with 10 years of skiing experience, Zhang Huiliang was selected to join the medical support team for the Winter Olympics to take charge of ski track rescue work.

Zhang said that the biggest challenge during the treatment process is that the piste is slippery and uneven, meaning he has to stabilize himself before starting the treatment process.

According to FIS requirements, medical staff should be able to reach an injured athlete within four minutes and try to remove the injured athlete from the competition area within 10-12 minutes. This puts a high demand on medical staff, both in skiing skills and first aid capabilities.

After nearly three years of training and practical application, the Beijing 2022 medical support team has gained experience by rehearsing a variety of different types of injuries and treatments.

"Now we can say with great pride that we have the ability to meet the medical requirements for the alpine skiing competitions and we are confident that we will be able to do a good job in the Olympic Games next year," said Bai Peng, a member of the medical support team at the National Alpine Skiing Center.

Another key area being tested is the weather forecast and monitoring system.

The freestyle ski aerials competitions originally scheduled for Feb. 16 at the Genting Ski Park were adjusted as the wind speed and temperature did not meet the requirements, according to the organizers.

"We basically run all our operations according to the plan. But in outdoor venues there will always be unexpected [conditions] that mean our team will have to improvise," said Ma Xuan, operations secretary general of the Zhangjiakou competition zone.

Cerato, who was also involved in the preparations for the Sochi 2014 and Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games, was complimentary about the operation team as well. "Everybody here is working very hard. They are all professional at the maximum level. Based on my experience, this is the best team I have ever worked together with," he said.

NON-CONTACT INTERVIEWS

With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging in large parts of the world, virus prevention and control measures have become even more important.

As a result, the test program has introduced several initiatives, with Genting Snow Park using non-contact interviews during which journalists have to keep a distance of more than two meters from athletes in the mixed interview zone.

"It has been taken into account any COVID setup, but it would be fairly easy to make this a little bit bigger," said former FIS freestyle coordinator Joe Fitzgerald.

"The World Health Organization says we should be two meters apart. And each one of these fences is two meters... so we actually double the WHO [standard]," he added. Enditem

(Ji Ye, Li Li, Yang Fan also contributed to this story.)

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