As China promotes winter sports nationwide in the leadup to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, the nation"s education authorities are looking to bring thrills and chills to campuses as part of a specialized physical education program.
A campus soccer program, run by the Ministry of Education, has seen about 20,000 schools across the country offer soccer-specialized PE classes.
Now, it"s time for skating and skiing to expand on a similar scale with participation in winter sports a major priority for the country"s sports and education authorities.
Wang Dengfeng, director of the ministry"s physical education, health and arts department, said a main task this year will be the expansion of a winter sports PE curriculum from the northeastern region across a wider area.
"We just want to involve as many children as possible in winter sports, starting at the entry level," Wang said during the annual session of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People"s Political Consultative Conference.
"Now, it"s not about developing elite talent. It"s about growing people"s interest."
As part of a national winter sports promotion plan, the ministry - with support from the General Administration of Sport of China, the governing body - has set a target of introducing the curriculum in 2,000 schools by 2020.
Meanwhile, Beijing has selected 52 primary and secondary schools to join a pilot program that offers training at commercial rinks and resorts.
However, a lack of trainers and facilities - factors that hampered the promotion of soccer - will present even greater challenges, given China"s short history of winter sports" participation.
Despite that, the development of technology is expected to provide a solution.
According to Bian Zhiliang, a CPPCC member and chairman of sports equipment manufacturer Taishan Sports in Shandong province, trials of the company"s artificial ice rinks and skiing simulators have prompted positive feedback from about 100 pilot schools nationwide.
Sets of equipment, called Ice and Snow Packs, were developed specifically for on-campus use with the help of a technical research team in Sweden.
To keep costs low, the rinks and simulators can be disassembled, transported to different locations and then reassembled.
"The packs will become game changers once they enter the mass production phase after the trial. They will help winter sports to shake off climatic and geographic limits to reach more regions," Bian said.
Wang stressed that the expansion will be implemented cautiously to allow adaptation to a range of different natural and economic conditions.
"It will certainly take time and we will never push it too hard. After all, participation should be triggered by the students" genuine interest, not administrative orders," he said.
In September, with the help of the National Winter Sports Administrative Center, the ministry will issue a regulation to encourage a number of universities to build high-performance winter sports teams and develop a collegiate competition system, he added.