Swedish Ambassador to China Helena S?ngeland during an exclusive interview with the Global Times Photo: Li Hao/GT
The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics are in full swing, and among some of the strongest contenders for the leader board is the Swedish delegation who have the full support of their fellow countrymen back home and a large international fan base. In a recent exclusive interview with Global Times(GT) reporter Lin Xiaoyi, Swedish Ambassador to China, Helena Sångeland(Sångeland), said she is full of expectation in the Beijing Winter Olympics, noting that Sweden’s delegation to Games has the country’s largest line-up in its history. In the interview, Sångeland recalled the long and deep cooperation between Sweden and China in preparing for the Games and in developing snow and ice sports, expecting that the excellent performance of Swedish athletes in Beijing will set an example for many young athletes.
GT: What expectations do you have for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games?
Sångeland：I am fully confident of the Swedish Team in the Beijing Winter Olympics. We have sent a historically large team to Beijing.
I have visited the various Olympic venues in Beijing, Shougang Park, Yanqing district and neighboring Zhangjiakou in Hebei Province; the three zones are within a reasonable distance of each other, making transportation much easier. The facilities and Olympic-related infrastructure appear to be very good.
The Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics have also brought more opportunities to deepen cooperation between Sweden and China. Swedish companies and experts have long been actively involved in the construction of the venues and the preparation of the event. The snow cannons and water pumps used to generate snow in Yanqing and Chongli, for instance, are Swedish made. A Swedish team from Åre is also responsible for the creation and maintenance of the slopes in Yanqing. They have been here for the last three winters building them in cooperation with their Chinese colleagues. Sweden has great experience in hosting major snow and ice sporting events. I believe that with this cooperation, the quality of snow and the track will be high and perform consistently.
We have also learned that in preparation for the 2022 Winter Olympics, a Chinese delegation visited the Mid Sweden University and their Sports Tech Research Centre to learn more about Sweden’s work in sports science.
GT: Sweden is considered as one of the global Winter sports’ powerhouses. How would you describe the people’s passion for winter sports in Sweden?
Sångeland：Due to natural conditions and our geographic location, our winter is long, providing a good opportunity to practice outdoor winter sports. In February, for instance, we have one week dubbed sportlov, for families to engage in snow sports activities with their children. Most Swedish people enjoy cross country skiing and nordic ice skating, which we like to do on frozen lakes and on the sea.
Sweden has a long history of winter sports. Many sports have evolved from a way for people to survive the long winters. Winter sports are deeply rooted in the blood of modern day Swedes.
GT: In the field of winter sports, how have Sweden and China engaged in collaboration and exchanges?
Sångeland：Sweden and China have a long history of cooperation and exchanges in the development of ice and snow sports. For example, for the last 20 years, Vasaloppet China has been organized in Changchun, Northeast China’s Jilin Province, which is a large-scale race in Sweden with a 100-year history, with increased Chinese participation over the years. The last competition was held in the beginning of January.
The Chinese national curling team has a Swedish coach, Peja Lindholm, considered to be one of the best European skips of all time. The Chinese ski jumping and free skiing teams have been on training trips to Sweden. And there have also been quite a few collaborations in ice hockey over the years. A lot of young players from both countries have had a chance to train and play together, both in Sweden and in China.
On the other hand, we have had a few Swedish athletes play for professional leagues in China, for example Emma Nordin, the forward in the Swedish national hockey team and a KRS Vanke Rays player in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, has begun her fourth Olympic tournament in Beijing.
GT: At the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, Sweden won 14 medals, including seven golds, making it your country’s best Winter Olympics performance ever. Are there any new goals for the Swedish delegation this year?
Sångeland：Swedish people have very high hopes for our athletes this year to surpass our previous record from the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games, both in the Olympics and the Paralympics. If we make more breakthroughs, I think it can serve as inspiration for young athletes who can aspire to be just as good as the Swedish athletes have been at the Beijing 2022 Winter Games.