Residents reaping benefits of Asian Games facilities

China Daily | Updated: 2023-06-19

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Aerial views of Asian Games venues in Huzhou and Shaoxing, Zhejiang province. [Photo/China Daily]

The Asian Games buzz is building across Zhejiang province as five cities fine-tune preparations to assist Hangzhou in hosting the sporting extravaganza.

Thanks to the games, the construction of grassroots sports facilities in Zhejiang has been included in the provincial government's lifestyle projects, according to Zheng Yao, the director of Zhejiang Sport Bureau.

Through the transformation of vacant urban land, abandoned factories, and spaces underneath elevated bridges, more than 10,000 sports parks, multifunctional community sports fields, soccer pitches, basketball courts, and other facilities have been built in Zhejiang.

All 56 competition venues and 32 training venues for the Asian Games were completed last year. By the end of 2022, the per-capita area for sports venues in Zhejiang was 2.8 square meters, ranking sixth among all provinces and regions.

Despite the one-year delay of the Asian Games due to the pandemic, the state-of-the-art venues have not been left idle. Instead, they were opened to the public free of charge, allowing citizens to enjoy their benefits.

Of all the co-host cities, Shaoxing will stage the most events. It will host five sports — baseball, softball, sport climbing, basketball, and volleyball.

The Shaoxing Baseball and Softball Sports Culture Center will serve as the venue for the baseball and softball events. It was completed at the end of 2021, with its design inspired by Shaoxing's renowned textile and ribbon industry.

Using this infrastructure, Shaoxing plans to establish itself as the "City of Baseball and Softball" in China.

According to Wang Rongjun, deputy director of Shaoxing Sport Bureau, the city is promoting baseball and softball teams across all age groups and implementing a program to introduce these sports into schools.

Last year, 32 schools were selected for this program. This year, it will expand to 52 schools, and in the following two years, it will reach 100 schools, according to Wang.

Qian Ganbao, the head coach of Shaoxing youth baseball team, hosts two training sessions per week with 40 local teenagers at the Shaoxing Baseball and Softball Sports Culture Center.

"Because baseball is a team-oriented sport, it fosters camaraderie and is simply great fun to play. This is why many children are genuinely interested and engaged in the sport at this stage," Qin said.

Plans are in place for Shaoxing Baseball and Softball Sports Culture Center to serve as a training base for the national team and to host major international and domestic events each year, according to Wang Jiong, the executive deputy chief of the venue's operational team.

Another focus of the center is to provide a recreational space for the local community.

While baseball and softball will be the main feature, other facilities such as swimming pools, table tennis tables, and basketball, tennis and badminton courts will also be open to the general public.

The Asian Games' 3x3 basketball event will be held in Deqing, Huzhou. On May 26 and 27, the basketball venue hosted the FIBA 3x3 Deqing Huzhou Challenger 2023, attracting over 3,000 hoops fans.

Wang Wei, captain of local team Youmengren (Dreamers), watched the action from the stand.

"The presence of professional MCs, court lighting, and cheerleaders at the competition creates a completely different atmosphere compared to regular square games," said the 36-year-old.

Wang, who owns a design company, established the team in 2020, and it often trains at the venue.

"We train twice a week and often have competitions on weekends. I feel quite happy to have a bunch of buddies to play basketball with," he said.

"It feels good to play basketball in this professional venue. Our team has signed up for this year's basketball league in Deqing in July."

Deqing has hosted 3x3 competitions since 2002, according to Ying Zaifei, the deputy secretary-general of Deqing Basketball Association.

"We have arranged basketball competitions almost every week, including tournaments for college students, local companies and various age groups," he said.

"Most of the tournaments were held on the outdoor venue at our Qianqiu square, which attracted villagers from the whole county to come to watch," Ying said.

"The new venue has really enhanced the atmosphere of the competitions."