BEIJING, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- Dozens of children waited anxiously at a Beijing stadium as a truck smoothed out the surface of an ice rink. As soon as the cleanup was finished, the rowdy group swarmed onto the rink, not sparing a second.
The Shijingshan ice and snow sports center, like most sports facilities in the capital, is packed with children in summer sports programs.
Aug. 8 marks China's 11th national fitness day, a tradition started in 2008 when China hosted the Beijing Summer Olympics and Paralympic Games. Across the nation, a sports craze has seized people of various age groups.
Wang Ruofei is barely five years old, and he was taking his first glide on the ice rink. "He is excited to go on the ice, and it is cool here, a break from the summer heat," said his mother.
Wang's six-day training costs 680 yuan (about 100 U.S. dollars), though his helmets and protective gear cost far more.
At another rink in the center, trainees are playing hockey with the help of a Russian trainer. The 20-day summer program invites ice hockey players from Russia for matches with young Chinese players.
"Some parents still worry that the sport is too hard and taxing, but without powerful training, there is no improvement. Many Chinese parents have come to know this," said Evgeny Safronov.
Seven-year-old Jiajia trained with Safronov for an hour as his mother observed with contentment. "Playing ice hockey fosters strong will and teaches him to honor team spirit," his mother said.
"Training and playing with the Russian boys is also a good opportunity for exchange," she added.
Venue operation manager Xu Yilian said when the rink opened in 2017, fewer than 30 people came every day. "Now there is a huge public demand for winter sports. About 200 people come to train on the rinks every day," said Xu.
Ski simulator facilities are also packed with children and interested adults, she said.
Shijingshan District, where the 2022 Beijing Organizing Committee of Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games (BOCWOG) is located, has seen the growing popularity of winter sports. Facilities for the Big Air snowboarding events during the Games is under construction in the district.
As part of the efforts to brace for the 24th Winter Olympics, China encourages 300 million people in the country to participate in winter sports.
The Chinese government issued an action plan for 2019-2030 in July to implement the country's Healthy China initiative and promote people's health.
In the plan, people are advised to engage in 30 minutes of fitness activities three times and more a week or a similar exercise load. It says a person needs to walk from 6,000 to 10,000 steps every day.
The action plan says members of the public should be able to access fitness facilities within a walking distance of 15 minutes.
According to the plan, by 2030, about 90 percent of the school sports venues will be open to the public, and per capita sports space will reach 2.3 square meters.
In 2016, the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council released the "Healthy China 2030" blueprint, which covers areas such as public health services, environment management, the medical industry, and food and drug safety.