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Nation putting its best sporting foot forward

By Sun Xiaochen in Beijing and Wu Yong in Shenyang | China Daily | Updated: 2019-08-08 10:11
Runners take part in an international crosscountry race in Kelamayi, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, on June 29. CHEN XIAOWEI/XINHUA

Olympic medals no longer sole gauge of achievement

The sweltering summer heat didn't stop runners from taking to the track at Olympic Forest Park in north Beijing on a recent Saturday afternoon.

Built for the 2008 Summer Olympics, the park features a 10-kilometer track that wends part of its way alongside a lake. It has become highly popular with runners since China began promoting physical fitness among the population in the post-Games era.

Kang Xu, a running enthusiast who has completed more than 20 marathons, said spending time at the park has become his weekend routine.

"If I miss a running session on Saturday I feel uncomfortable and even guilty the next day," said Kang, editor of Front Runner, a popular long-distance running magazine.

The enthusiasm for running among people in urban areas underlines the country's ever-increasing passion for fitness. This has been inspired by the central government's call to promote mass participation in exercise while boosting the sports industry to build a healthier nation by 2030.

President Xi Jinping, while meeting with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach in Beijing in January, said the overall fitness level of the Chinese people has improved significantly over the past 70 years. He also stressed that the scale of public sports participation represents a country's move toward modernization.

In his report at the opening session of the Communist Party of China's 19th National Congress on Oct 18, 2017, Xi urged the country's sports sector to extensively promote mass fitness activities to accelerate development of a strong sporting nation.

Echoing Xi's call, people from all walks of life have embraced a range of sports exercises to mark the 11th National Fitness Day, which has been held on Aug 8 annually since 2009 to commemorate the opening of the 2008 Olympics.

As part of this year's Fitness Day campaign, the General Administration of Sport of China organized more than 3,000 mass activities and grassroots sporting contests at major public venues, parks, provincial Olympic sports centers and schools in some 20 municipalities and provinces.

An estimated 90 million participants have signed up to take part, according to GASC's mass fitness department.

A highlight this year is promoting calisthenics - synchronized group exercises performed to music by students on campus - among a wider range of participants at government bodies, affiliated institutions and enterprises.

Some 780 people took part in a display of calisthenics performed to music and guidance from radio broadcasts in Xi'an, Shaanxi province, on Saturday, showcasing the accessibility and health benefits of the routines.

By expanding this from campuses to public areas, GASC, the country's sports governing body, aims to inspire more adults to adopt active and healthy lifestyles.

"We hope residents in both urban and rural areas will be motivated to become involved in sports. Ideally, everyone will have one or two sports that they participate in on a regular basis, and this will become a habit," said Gou Zhongwen, GASC director.

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