Games put the focus back on sports

Updated: 2013-08-31 02:12

By LIU CE and ZHU CHENGPEI (China Daily)

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Organizers aim for thriftiness, not extravagance

Fang Qi, 21, has been practicing for six hours already in the saunalike rehearsal hall at Shenyang Normal University, in Liaoning province, where temperatures have consistently reached 33 C as of mid-August.

However, the university student is not complaining, because she knows that she will be rewarded with a role in the opening ceremony of the 12th National Games — as will her 600-plus teammates.

Games put the focus back on sports

Performers on stilts practice a routine on Thursday for the opening ceremony of the 12th National Games in Shenyang.Photos by Hei Ke / for China Daily

The games, which are held in Liaoning province, will start on Aug 31 and run for 13 days. While some of the sporting competitions have already taken place, the opening ceremony will mark the official start of the national event, which draws athletes from across the country.

In contrast with the magnificent scenes on display at previous big events in China, the opening ceremony in Shenyang on Aug 31 will be a relatively low-key, daytime affair. The performance will only last 23 minutes, and there will be no highly paid superstars or eye-catching fireworks.

"It reflects our core concept for the games — frugality," said He Min, vice-governor of Liaoning province, who is also vice-chairwoman and secretary general of the 12th National Games Organizing Committee.

It's the first time since the 6th National Games in 1987 that the opening ceremony will be held during the daytime. The general budget of the ceremony is 9 million yuan ($1.47 million), roughly 10 percent of the budget for the last games four years ago, according to the organizing committee.

"We have canceled large-scale theatrical performances to allow more citizens to get involved in the games. All the performers are local sports fans and amateur actors from all walks of life," said Zhu Wenbiao, an officer from the committee who is in charge of the opening and closing ceremonies.

The ceremony will involve minimal spending on lighting and fireworks, which are usually big costs at such events, he added.

The principle of frugality has been applied to every detail of the games and its organizing process. Organizers aim to keep the total operating cost within 800 million yuan, 78 percent less than the budget.

According to He, the committee has arranged for buffet dinners instead of banquets, and the torch relay was limited to 14 cities around

Liaoning, rather than extending across the whole country.

The overall scale of the games has also been narrowed. The total number of athletes has been reduced from 11,000 in 2009 to 9,500 this year.

Focus on sports

However, the mood of thriftiness has not negatively affected the athletes or their expected performance levels.

"We want to let the games focus again on the sports," He said.

Games put the focus back on sports

Volunteers wrote their names on paper cups for reuse at a stadium of the games.

This view was shared by 56-year-old Dong Chunlin, who has participated in 10 consecutive National Games, both as a modern pentathlete and now as captain of the Hubei team.

"It's a good trend that the National Games are focusing again on the sports themselves. We came to compete with top-level athletes, not for the junket. We don't need any kind of pomp. A well-organized and warm service is more important for us. We like the buffet meals, which cut down on waste," he said.

Dong's team won the silver medal for the mixed group modern pentathlon, which was among the events held early, taking place in Dalian from July 25 to July 28.

Li Xin, a 21-year-old volunteer at the games, has also taken the message of frugality to heart.

"We never print something if the information can be e-mailed or transmitted verbally. Even the signs for our offices are made from board composed of recycled straw, which is convenient and cheap," Li said. "We have made more than 30 signs now. These experiences make me understand that thrift really is a virtue."

He Min said that the message of frugality also chimes well with the general mood of the public.

"Frugality and a return to the sports are the main concepts of the games. More importantly, thrift is the public preference on holding big events. We are not being frugal because of a lack of money but to create a new social atmosphere."

New venues

These core concepts are also reflected in the construction of sporting venues.

The women's volleyball competition took place in Shenyang Medical College between July 10 and July 20, and the college benefited from a new sports facility.

"What the games left is not only a wonderful game, but also the modern gym, which will serve for thousands of students," said Wu Dong, head of the information office at the college.

"Besides the consideration of saving on construction costs, we are mostly concerned with the use of the venues after the games," said Ren Liming, a committee officer in charge of venue construction.

According to figures supplied by the organizing committee, of the 117 venues allotted for the games, 25 are newly built, representing an investment of 3.27 billion yuan, of which 1.21 billion yuan is from the government, accounting for 37 percent of the bill. Of the newly built venues, only 10 were specifically built with the games in mind, accounting for just 8.5 percent of the total number of stadiums.

Of the remaining 15 venues, nine are built in universities that lacked sporting facilities, while six have been built in Huludao and Panjin, two cities founded in the 1980s that did not have public sports facilities.

"We also chose densely populated areas in the distribution of venues being built, to make it convenient for local people to get exercise. Moreover, commercial exploitation after the games has been considered. We have tried to create conditions for commercial use of the venues in the future," Ren said.

The Shenyang Qipanshan International Scenery Tourism Development Zone is hosting several road cycling, BMX and mountain biking events at the games. Once the games are finished, it plans to keep the tracks and other facilities in place and host cycling competitions in the future, attracting athletes from home and abroad.

"It's one of the connotations of thrift that all the venues can be fully utilized after the games," Ren said.

"The 12th National Games are dedicated to decreasing unnecessary costs in venue construction, reception and so on. Their efforts will enrich the lives of local residents and explore a new approach to the sustainable utilization of venues after the games," said Liu Qingzao, a professor at the Shanghai University of Sport.

Healthy lifestyles

In contrast to the thrift involved in hosting the games, Liaoning is generous in promoting healthy lifestyles, with more and more sporting facilities available to the general public.

According to statistics from the Liaoning sports bureau, all the 3,688 urban communities of the province have built exercise paths, which provide space in which residents can take simple exercise of various kinds. There are now 1,006 fitness centers available to local citizens, while 44.8 percent of the population takes regular physical exercise, according to the Liaoning sports bureau.

"Undertaking the 12th National Games is not the dream of a single person, but the dream of all the people of Liaoning. We hope everyone will be involved in the games. It is the chorus of the people of Liaoning," He Min said.