China will widen its search for Olympic stars of the future at a six-day winter sports gala in the world famous 'ice city' of Harbin.
The 2018 "Future Star" National Sunny Youth Winter Sports Meeting will take place from Feb 5-10 in the capital city of Heilongjiang province, with around 2,000 students from 31 provinces and municipalities expected to compete.
"The event, organized by the General Administration of Sport of China, the Ministry of Education and the Communist Youth League, is aimed at promoting winter sports and Olympic education among Chinese teenagers and developing excellent athletes for winter sports," said Liu Fumin, the director of youth sports at China's State General Administration of Sport, at a media conference in Harbin on Wednesday.
The gala will see youngsters compete in a number of high-profile Olympic sports including ice hockey, skating and skiing, while a series of fun activities on the sidelines will include curling, alpine skiing and local favorite spinning top on ice.
Educational programs on Olympic knowledge, ice and snow culture and patriotism will also be held as China steps up its preparations for the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
"There will also be several sessions in the northern provinces and municipalities, including Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Liaoning, Jilin and Inner Mongolia," said Liu. "Over 100,000 teenagers are expected to participate in the event."
Liu added that since its debut in 2015, the event has succeeded in promoting the government's goal of getting over 300 million people involved in winter sports as more students have now taken up winter exercises.
At the launch, Olympic champion short-track speed skater Zhang Hui, the event's ambassador, said she hopes the gala will be the start of the road to Games glory for some.
"Let's enjoy the happiness of winter sports and persevere in daily exercise," said Zhang, a member of China's 3,000m relay gold medal team at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. "I will be glad to see some of you being honored on the Olympic podium."
Li Feng, deputy director of the provincial sports bureau, was equally optimistic.
"We have gained rich experience from the past three meetings in Mudanjiang of our province," Li said. "We are honored to undertake it in the capital city this year and we're confident we will host it successfully.
"Harbin has abundant snow and ice resources. Winter sports in schools has a long history in the city. Now we hope to see more teenagers from other places, especially those regions without ice and snow, take part in winter sports, which will greatly help cultivate more reserve talent.
"It's an ideal opportunity for teenagers all over the country to exchange friendship and regional cultures.
"The event will further enhance the city's reputation as well as increase its tourism profile."