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Tianjin's public divers take show indoors

By Liang Shuang | China Daily | Updated: 2023-09-08 09:21

Rescuers are seen among the people to ensure the safety of the divers and the audience at the Shizilin Bridge in Tianjin on Sept 5, 2023. [Photo by Zou Hong/chinadaily.com.cn]

Several associations and health experts have voiced concerns over the amateur swimmers who have taken to diving off a 6-meter-high bridge into a river in urban Tianjin, after some overzealous divers injured themselves.

The city has also announced repair work on the support structure of the bridge, putting the kibosh on the recently popular pastime.

Among them is the Shizilin Bridge Divers' Association, whose spirited members were the first to turn the bridge into a stage for aquatic acrobatics.

Over the past couple of weeks, videos of these elderly individuals jumping off the bridge into the 7-meter-deep Haihe River attracted a huge number of views on various Chinese social media platforms. In turn, this attracted hundreds of people to come to the bridge each day to watch them dive into the river.

Those divers would give an inspiring or entertaining speech to the crowd before their jump.

Even He Chong, a retired professional diver who won gold in the men's 3-meter springboard at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, came to join in and jumped off the bridge to cheering onlookers. Some netizens have dubbed the bridge an "8A"-level tourist attraction, way above the 5A, which represents the top tier in China's scenic area rating system.

However, the zeal has got a bit over the top for some amateurs, who've failed to identify the hidden risks behind the exhilarating act.

Tianjin's fire department posted two videos on Saturday and Sunday on microblogging platform Sina Weibo, showing a pair of young men being rescued because they didn't enter the water at the correct angle and were winded by the impact.

Members of the Blue Sky Rescue team stationed at the site told Beijing Youth Daily that they rescued 14 people at risk of drowning or other injury on Monday and Tuesday.

Members of the divers' association said in an announcement on Wednesday that they would stop jumping from the bridge and turn to safer indoor venues, and asked diving enthusiasts to do the same.

They explained that many of their divers had more than 30 years of experience, but the popularity of their activities at the bridge has brought with it risks that others with a lack of skill or experience might endanger themselves by trying to emulate their actions.

The city government has recently been switching off the lighting on the bridge at night to dissuade people from diving into the river. Additionally, the platform they dive from — a narrow space outside the fence — is rusty and in need of repair.

Tianjin's swimming and health education associations released a joint statement on Wednesday, warning people of the hidden risks of the activity. Entering the water from such a height exerts an impact on the body several times its weight, a sports doctor was quoted as saying.

The associations asked people who want to practice diving to check their health status and risk factors, such as cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure or severe myopia, adding that they should choose appropriate venues with lifeguards on duty.

The Tianjin Urban Management Commission said on Wednesday night that repairs and renovation work on the decorative lights hanging outside the Shizilin Bridge would commence. The commission said it found the steel supporting the lights rusty and risked falling or causing electric shock.




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