Dmitry Chernyshenko has heralded the inclusion of Kunlun Red Star in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) as a crucial step on the path to China fielding a team at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.
Chernyshenko, President and chief executive of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia and a member of the Beijing 2022 Coordination Commission, said the KHL and Kunlun Red Star had a “strong mutual interest” in their participation in the league and that the “challenging and highly-promising” Chinese Market had “huge potential”.
The Beijing-based club, who play their matches at the LeSports Center, a venue constructed to host basketball at the 2008 Summer Olympics in the Chinese capital, were added to the league ahead of the current season.
They began their debut appearance in the KHL, considered the second best hockey league in the world behind the National Hockey League which includes teams from Belarus, Croatia, Finland, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Russia and Slovakia, with a 2-1 victory over Amur Khabarovsk last month.
Kunlun Red Star currently sit in 12th place in the Eastern Conference having picked up eight wins from their opening 18 matches.
The side is made up of a mixture of foreign imports, whose inclusion is designed to make the team as competitive as possible in the league, and domestic talent.
Their current squad features four players from China.
Chernyshenko has predicted staging the Games will lead to a dramatic increase in the amount of Chinese players in the sport.
“Under Olympic guidance, we expect to witness rapid growth in the number of individuals taking up the sport and in the number of hockey matches played,” Chernyshenko said.
“We also see the emergence of this club, Kunlun Red Star, as the first step in the development of a national team to represent China at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing.
“The team is coached by Vladimir Yurzinov Jr, a man who has earned a formidable reputation throughout the world of hockey, having amassed a wealth of experience with teams in the KHL and many other leagues throughout the world.
“This is why we are confident that this club will become the centre of ice hockey expertise for the entire nation.”
The Russian official also gave his reflections on the state of Beijing 2022’s preparations for the Games in five-and-a-half years’ time, claiming they were “in good form”, even at this early stage, following the visit of the Coordination Commission inspection last week.
Visiting International Olympic Committee (IOC) members claimed they were pleased with what they had seen and Beijing 2022 were “on track” to deliver the event as they have promised.
“It was a pleasure to see the Beijing 2022 team in such good form at such an early stage, according to the reports we received,” Chernyshenko added.
“Fifty per cent of the people in the Organising Committee were in charge for Beijing 2008 Games, so this is a very effective and professional team that has developed well-thought-out plans and ambitious goals.
“China is a challenging and highly promising market, and one which is eager to import, develop and master many non-traditional sports, including ice hockey, ahead of the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing.”