Factory Surroundings Get Attention for Olympic ‘Big Air’ Event

    08 February 2022

    An old steel-making center in Beijing is getting new life as a place for shopping, eating and working. Now, it is also being shown on televisions during this year's Winter Olympics.

    The center has large cooling towers and smokestacks, which are big industrial structures for dealing with pollution and heat. This month, however, they are being seen with the Olympic ski jumping competition known as "Big Air."

    In the competition, the skiers slide down a 64-meter high, 164-meter-long ramp to gain speed before they jump into the air and do tricks. As they rise, television cameras show them with the factory in the background.

    Finn Bilous (NZL) in the Men's Freestyle skiing Big Air Qualifying during the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games at Big Air Shougang. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports
    Finn Bilous (NZL) in the Men's Freestyle skiing Big Air Qualifying during the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games at Big Air Shougang. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

    Some people watching used social media to say the images made them wonder if the Olympics were being held in Springfield, the home of the Simpsons family. In the cartoon, Homer Simpson worked at a nuclear power center.

    China closed the Shougang steel factory before the 2008 Summer Olympics to reduce air pollution. Since then, the factory has been turned into a place where people work, eat and walk on grassy areas. The old parts of the factory are still there. But many of the spaces have been turned into offices.

    Alex Hall is an American freestyle skier. He said: "The crazy smokestack things in the back are pretty cool."

    "Big Air" skiing is new for this Olympics. The snowboard version of the event happened for the first time four years ago in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The event usually takes place in mountain ski areas or in temporary places inside sports stadiums. But the Shougang ramp is a permanent structure. Other Big Air events around the world are made using materials that are easy to take down when the event ends. Chinese officials hope that Beijing will be a place for future competitions.

    The competitors like the ramp because the structure is secure. When they compete on temporary ramps, they do not feel as safe.

    Some of them said the city ramp is just as good as the ones in the mountains. They are able to do their usual tricks without worrying about running out of space.

    American skier Nick Goepper compared the place to something you would see in a video game. American-born skier Eileen Gu won gold competing for China in the event on Tuesday. She said permanent ski jumps are a good idea for the sport.

    She called it "fantastic," or really good, and noted that it feels like being on a glacier although it is in the city.

    Skier Kirsty Muir of Great Britain called the place "amazing" and "cool."

    Antoine Adelisse of France said he was a little sad to be at the top of the jump and not see mountains. However, he liked how it looked at night with the bright lights.

    There is a question about how many cities will able to build a structure like the one in China. The ramp in Beijing is built into a larger seating area that can be used for concerts and other performances.

    Goepper said more competition places like the one in Shougang would help the sport find new fans since more people can see the event in cities.

    Zhang Li designed the ramp and said it is supposed to look like a ribbon floating in the air.

    In the first week of the Olympics, the skiers will use the location. Next week, snowboarders will use it.

    I'm Dan Friedell.

    Dan Friedell adapted this story for Learning English based on reports by Reuters and the Associated Press.

    Have you seen the Big Air location? What do you think? Write to us in the Comments Section and visit 51VOA.COM.


    Words in This Story

    ramp – n. a path that is high at one end and low at the other

    trick – n. a skillful action that someone performs for others

    cartoon – n. a film or television show made by photographing a series of drawings : an animated film or television show

    crazy – adj. very strange or unusual

    cool – adj. appealing in a way approved of mainly by young people

    stadium – n. a very large usually roofless building that has a large open area surrounded by many seats and that is used for sports events

    glacier – n. a very large area of ice that slowly moves down a mountain

    amazing –adj. causing great surprise or wonder

    ribbon – n. a thin, long piece of something