The world's best snowboarders will carve up Beijing this weekend as they begin the first runs of their five-month world tour.
The Shaun White and Oakley Ticket To Ride (TTR) Air and Style contest will kick off its multi-nation tour at the Olympic Sports Center Stadium on Saturday as riders from 13 different countries compete for the chance to win more than 666,000 yuan (S$131,099).
Sixteen of the world's top professional snowboarders will show off in front of thousands of Chinese fans, pulling death-defying tricks to prove their aerial prowess as they struggle to win the cash prize and the "Ring of Glory", a sterling silver ring that is up for grabs at the Beijing competition.
The Beijing Air and Style contest, which is labeled as a six out of six star on the TTR competition rating system, marks the first time a snowboarding event of this magnitude has been held in China.
"A six-star event is the biggest and best as far as competitions for snowboarders go," said Mikkel Bang, a 20-year-old Norwegian who will take part in Saturday's contest. "It's the real one."
He said while he's looking forward to competing, the chance to come to China and experience the culture was almost as exciting.
"I think for most riders it's going to be their first time in China. It should be really cool. I am sure it's going to be a way different setting from any of the other competition locations," he said.
While for the riders it may be a chance to check out Chinese culture, for Beijing it's an opportunity to spotlight the city's Olympic sports venues.
Per Odegard, president of Green Interactions Ltd, which worked with the Beijing Sports Bureau to organize the event, said the local government showed a lot of interest in hosting it.
"It's a great way for them to show their ability to host international winter sports," Odegard said.
The competition will also feature a pre-competition display by some of China's top snowboarders as well as performances by pop star Wang Leehom and local Beijing band New Pants.
For Wang Lei, the country's first competitive snowboarder, the event is proof of the sport's growing popularity in China.
"People watching China have seen the country grow. They have seen the country do well economically and become more competitive in sports," said Wang Lei, who will be performing in the pre-competition exhibition.
Wang, who is sponsored by Burton snowboards, said even though there are no Chinese boarders competing in the TTR tour, the hosting of an event of this scale is a definite milestone.
"This is just the first step. I think in a very short time you will see tons of Chinese competing in worldwide events," he said.
The tour's next stop will be in Austria in early January. It will also take in six-star events in Switzerland, Germany and Norway.
Tickets for the Shaun White and Oakley TTR Air and Style event start at 80 yuan (S$15) for students and rise to as much as 480 yuan (S$94) for the best seats.
-China Daily/Asia News Network