Farmers swap sheep for skis

Beijing — It may be hot outside but that doesn’t stop Chinese medics and sheep farmers from snow ploughing on giant white treadmills indoors.

They form part of the battalions of people learning the sport ahead of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

China is scrambling to build enthusiasm for winter sports before the Games. Its ambitious goal is to increase the number of fans tenfold, to 300-million, by 2022.

The doctors, nurses and farmers are part of this effort, training for several days a week to make the cut as volunteers and workers during the Games.

The training continued through the summer in the Yanqing district on the outskirts of Beijing, which will host several events in 2022, including Alpine skiing, bobsledding, skeleton and luge.

Inside the gymnasium, the learner skiers stood on two inclined treadmills that were being sprayed with water.

Lang Enge and his team of 25 farmers practised their moves to be able to do “whatever the government arranges for us”, such as cable car maintenance work, snow gear repair and operating artificial snow machines.

“Almost all farmers sold their sheep in our village;there are no shepherds now in Yanqing,” says Lang(29).

They sold their flocks after the local government told them they could keep them but could no longer take them to the mountains because apparently they were overgrazed.

Lang sold his 300 sheep and decided to focus on skiing instead.

The local government finances the training, promising jobs related to the Winter Olympics. Lang and his friends hope that by learning to ski, they can land permanent jobs in ski resorts after the Olympics.

In the meantime, Lang is working as a temporary traffic and public security employee for the local government. He said other farmers are working as taxi drivers, factory workers and car salesmen.

Doctors and nurses are also training at the same gym but for a different reason: working as medical volunteers who can rush down a slope to help athletes injured by attempting risky jumps and making high-speed turns.

“It’s a challenge for me. I hope to have more time to do my best,” said Jiang Wei(30),a nurse at the local hospital, before donning a helmet, and elbow and knee pads,jumping into the skiing simulator and getting advice from an instructor.

The farmers appeared confident on the slope simulator, slowly slaloming on the moving carpet, but the doctors and nurses were still grabbing onto a security pole at the bottom of the treadmill.

“I think the people I trained will be suitable for these jobs,” said E Yinchun, one of the trainers.

For the farmers in Yanqing this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get a better-paying job.

What will happen after the Games is still uncertain.Especially, Lang said, now that “there are no sheep farmers in town”. — AFP

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.


Eastern Cape schools to only open for grades 3, 6...

The province says the increase in Covid-19 cases has made it re-evaluate some decisions

Malawi celebrates independence day, but the first president left his...

The historical record shows that Malawi’s difficulties under Hastings Banda were evident at the very moment of the country’s founding

Gauteng health MEC Bandile Masuku’s first rule: Don’t panic

As Gauteng braces for its Covid-19 peak, the province’s MEC for health, Bandile Masuku, is putting his training to the test as he leads efforts to tackle the impending public health crisis

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday