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Children learn to the basics of playing ice hockey. [Photo/provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

With still six years to go before the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, the passion for winter sports has already swamped

the Chinese capital at its landmark stadium.

After a trial operation in December, the Bird's Nest, main stadium of the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics and proposed venue for the 2022 Winter Olympics' opening ceremony, kicked off the 7th annual Happy Ice and Snow Carnival on Sunday, providing an accessible winter sports destination in downtown Beijing.

The carnival, a fan-engaging multiple-sport event held in the stadium and its surrounding squares, features an area dedicated to the introduction of 10 Olympic winter events including ice hockey, biathlon and cross-country skiing following Beijing’s successful bid to host the 2022 Winter Games last July.

Catering to growing public enthusiasm for winter sports and recreation activities, carnival organizers opened the south and north squares outside the stadium, transforming them into an outdoor skating rink and a small ski resort with two man-paved trails.

Organizers also extended business hours, opening night sessions for the ski area between 6 and 9pm daily.

This year’s carnival will last until Feb 28 and is expected to receive more than 100,000 visitors, said Li Zhiqun, assistant general manager of the stadium.

"We've expanded our carnival site with more skiing areas this year, but we were almost over capacity at weekends during the trial operation,” he said.

"It's really a sweet headache. We have to continue enlarging our activity areas with more investment and better design to feed the public's soaring demand for ice and snow entertainment."

The carnival opens daily from 10 am to 9 pm with adult tickets costing 120 yuan ($19) on weekdays and 160 yuan at weekends. Children less than 1.2 meters tall enjoy free admission.