by sportswriter He Leijing
BEIJING, March 11 (Xinhua) -- An astonishing scene happens every day in the eastern Chinese city of Wuxi, where people are immersed in sports while vehicles whizz over their heads.
It takes place in Wuxi's largest sports park, built under an overpass, which covers an area of 6.4 hectares and is equipped with fitness facilities like basketball courts, ping-pong tables and skateparks.
"It's very creative, and it's really convenient both for children and the elderly to do some daily exercise," said local resident Jin Hepin. "I hope more people in China will be able to keep fit just outside their doorsteps."
Jin's voice has been heard. China is to further promote a nationwide fitness campaign as it aims to become a sporting powerhouse, according to national legislators and political advisors who are currently gathered in Beijing for the country's annual parliamentary meetings.
FITNESS FOR ALL
In the past five years, national fitness programs have been widely rolled out across China, said a government work report submitted for deliberation on Sunday to the national legislature.
Various sports parks and facilities have been popping up, especially after China proposed to promote "15-minute fitness circles" in urban communities, offering fitness facilities that residents can access within a walking distance of 15 minutes.
According to official statistics, the per capita sporting area available to Chinese people has reached 2.41 square meters, a marked increase from the 2011 figure of 1.05 square meters. More than 400 million Chinese are regularly involved in sporting activities.
Stepping in time to fast-paced pop tunes, dozens of teenagers are seen briskly enjoying dance-like workouts in the playground of a middle school in Nanjing, east China's Jiangsu Province. And less than 300km away in the city of Nantong, nearly 2,500 students run in spectacular changing formations that resemble the classic mobile game Snake.
"Schools are encouraged to design creative sports classes and activities catering to the interests of the students, who can ultimately harness their sports skills and enjoy good physical and mental health," said Wang Zongping, a professor at Nanjing University of Science and Technology.
Inspired by the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, increasing numbers of Chinese people are taking to ice rinks and snow slopes, regardless of where they live. By the end of 2025, 5,000 schools across China are expected to have included winter sports in their curriculum, according to a government plan.
EVERY OUNCE OF STRENGTH MATTERS
The rapid development of sporting facilities and broad public participation has laid a solid foundation for the growth of China's sporting strength as the country endeavors to become a sporting powerhouse.
Ding Shizhong, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), said that national fitness is key to improving overall public health, and he proposed a more efficient use of fitness facilities.
Ding suggested that the renovation and construction of sports facilities should be included in the urban renewal projects, and that sports infrastructure layout should be considered as part of the urban community public services and park building plan.
Bao Mingxiao, also a CPPCC National Committee member, echoed Ding's idea. He proposed that a newly-built public park should encompass an outdoor sports center that includes walkways, multifunctional ball sports courts and tent campsites.
And people living in rural areas should also have access to enough fitness facilities, according to National People's Congress (NPC) deputy Pei Chunliang, who advised that rural facilities be upgraded and public services in rural areas be improved.
Professional athletes, coaches and teachers and students from sports colleges should also be encouraged to go to the countryside to carry out fitness skills training and public activities, Pei added.
Olympic champion Zhang Yufei, also an NPC deputy, said she hopes more athletes enter schools to pass on their professional experience to teenagers, adding that the youth are an important force for China to become a sporting powerhouse.
"I suggest that swimming courses are incorporated into schools' physical education programs to help enhance teenagers' physical fitness," said the 24-year-old elite swimmer.
"As an NPC deputy, I have more responsibility to do things for the people, and I hope I can grow to be a big tree so that more people may enjoy my shade." she said. ■