The 14th China National Games kick off Wednesday evening at the Xi’an Olympic Sports Center. Photo: Cui Meng / GT
Different from the COVID-delayed Tokyo Summer Olympics, which took place in a nearly empty stadium in July, China’s ‘mini-Olympics’ officially started with a gala and colorful light show encouraged by spectators at Wednesday evening, a crowded stadium in Xi’an, capital of the Chinese province of Shaanxi (northwest).
Many athletes and journalists who participated in the Tokyo 2020 Games almost two months ago said that upon arriving in the National Games Villages, their impression is that Xi’an is much better than Tokyo in terms of installations, a feeling that continued until the opening ceremony.
At 8 p.m., the four Games mascots entered the stadium to welcome visitors from all parts of the country. The Chinese national flag and the National Games flag were brought to the site, followed by the athletes who were greeted with cheers.
In addition to the host delegation from Shaanxi, the delegations from Hong Kong and Macao also received huge acclaim from the audience. Hong Kong and Macao, as well as the province of Guangdong, will co-host the 2025 edition of the National Games.
Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday evening declared the opening of the country’s first multisport event at the Xi’an Olympic Sports Center. This is the first time that the quadrennial event has been held in western China since its launch in 1959. This time, more than 12,000 athletes will participate in 595 events in 54 sports.
The event is an important pledge of “victory in the fight against the epidemic and the success of the Beijing Winter Olympics,” Liu Guozhong, secretary of the Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in Shaanxi, said at the meeting. of the opening ceremony. “Chinese sports have witnessed the great leap of the Chinese nation to rise up, get rich, then get strong,” he said.
After tens of thousands of volunteers completed their artistic performance, the opening ceremony came to a head as China’s first gold medalist at the Tokyo Olympics, shooter Yang Qian lit the cauldron. The torch was passed to Yang in a relay of top sprinter Su Bingtian, gold medal swimmer Zhang Yufei, Olympic diving winner Qin Kai, Olympic air pistol winner Guo Wenjun, and Ma Long, captain. of the Chinese table tennis team and return to Olympic gold medalist return.
Before arriving at the 60,000-seat Xi’an Olympic Center Stadium, the torch had traveled for 28 days and 14 stops across the province relayed by 1,000 torchbearers.
Photo: Cui Meng / GT
Compared to the boycotts outside the Tokyo stadium with locals fearing the Games could trigger a worsening of the epidemic, the people of Shaanxi, especially the people of Xi’an, have displayed their enthusiasm and hospitality, which arise from responsibility, trust and development opportunities.
The host city rich in history makes no secret of its lofty goal: this strategy of zero infection for public health and the authorization of spectators inside sports venues may well coexist. The event is seen as an important test for next year’s Beijing Winter Olympics.
Photo: Cui Meng / GT
For ecological reasons, there was no fireworks display, but the sky was lit by a spectacular light show, with tens of thousands of people singing in chorus.
The hour-long cultural extravaganza featured more than 11,000 student volunteers, who trained for eight months with three dress rehearsals.
The first segment of the show focused on cultural confidence, with 2,021 young student drummers waving their chopsticks. It was followed by artistic performances featuring different dynasties. Tang Dynasty dance performances brought audiences back to one of the most prosperous periods in Chinese history. Xi’an was also the capital of the Tang Dynasty.
Xi’an served as the capital for 13 dynasties and kingdoms. As the starting point of the ancient Silk Road, Xi’an was the center of trade between East and West, and is still today a crucial stage for the Belt and Road Initiative. Road”.
The second chapter saw a red boat sail through the stadium, piercing the darkness, followed by red ribbons, symbolizing that 2021 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the CPC. In addition to cherishing the hard-won peace, actors dressed in war uniforms reminded people that Yan’an, in Shaanxi province, is the birthplace of the Red Revolution.
In 1941, during the Yan’an period of the CCP, the late Chinese leader Mao Zedong wrote an entry for the special sports issue of the Liberation Daily: “Develop sports and improve the physique of the people.”
On August 8, China’s National Fitness Day, the State Council released a new five-year plan to refine the public fitness system, with the goal of 38.5% of the population exercising regularly. physical exercise.
Observers said China has demonstrated its ambition to build a leading sports nation in many ways and has made progress in building its sports infrastructure and growing its sports population. And building a strong sports nation will help China to improve the quality of the population, which is another criterion for becoming a world power.
In the third chapter of the performance which embodies the theme “Chinese Dream”, a group of dancers portrayed one of the creatures that inhabit the Qinling Mountains of Shaanxi – the crested ibis. Dressed in pink and white costumes, the elegant performers flew through the air, recreating the magnificent landscape of the crested ibis.
Forty years ago, the bird was thought to be extinct, but seven were discovered in Yangxian County, Shaanxi Province. Today, thanks to careful conservation, there are more than 7,000 crested ibises. This program is a miniature of China’s achievements in building an ecological civilization.
Later, a dynamic dance performance showcased Shaanxi-related scientific and technological achievements, including the BeiDou satellite positioning system and the space segment, with the Chang’e lunar exploration missions.
At the end of the show, doctors, nurses, police tenders and workers – people who represent all walks of life – gathered around a huge Chinese national flag in the middle of the pitch.
More than 46,000 people involved in the opening ceremony wore masks during the event on Wednesday, including athletes, performers, spectators, technicians, security guards, other staff and officials .
But the Global Times reporter learned that the organizers previously considered not wearing masks at the opening ceremony, but abandoned the plan because the ongoing outbreak in Fujian raised alarm bells and failed. maintained zero infection until the close of the event, by which time it truly achieves its multiple goals, such as testing China’s prevention and control strategies and gaining experience for the Winter Olympics from Beijing in three and a half months.
A current localized epidemic in eastern China’s Fujian Province continues to see the number of cases rise, although at present its impact is “limited,” Beijing reported five suspected cases on Wednesday.
According to the principle of “zero dynamic infection”, the flexible, timely but also cautious measures by the organizers show China’s ability and confidence in controlling the epidemic at major sporting events, analysts said.
The Xi’an Health Commission said that as of August 4, more than 13.6 million Xi’an residents have been tested for COVID-19, with all tests negative. As of September 2, Xi’an had administered more than 22.4 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, with the second-dose coverage rate reaching 94.14% for eligible populations.
In addition to the closed-loop management of journalists and athletes, a student volunteer named Chen told the Global Times that strict procedures were in place.
“We registered in October of last year … The unified management and training at Xi’an Hotel, which we registered on August 31 of this year, follow the closed-loop principle and the transportation of site-to-site, ”Chen said. .
Given the low commercial returns and tickets from previous National Games, Global Times has learned that tickets for the opening gala have been distributed by the organizing committee given that it is in a special epidemic time. The spectators included students, sponsors and government employees.
“Before the opening ceremony I had to quarantine for 14 days in a designated hotel, had a nucleic acid test every three days and had to present a negative nucleic acid test within 48 hours of opening, “a spectator told Global Fois.
“It is not only for my own safety, but also for the safety and health of all,” said the spectator.
At a time when the world is still eclipsed by the pandemic, that China is able to organize its big national games as planned with tens of thousands of participants and spectators certainly sends a positive signal to the nation and to the world. , Zhao Jisheng, a professor with the College of Physical Education and Sports at Peking Normal University, told the Global Times.
The event shows the world China’s proven mechanisms and achievements in epidemic prevention, builds the confidence of the Chinese people and is a preparation for the upcoming Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, Zhao said.
An Olympics-related source who requested anonymity told the Global Times that the essentials of epidemic prevention for the Beijing Winter Olympics are essentially confirmed, and it will be more stringent than in Xi’an , as if there was an epidemic caused by foreigners entering. , it will be unbearable for the Chinese capital, which is larger and more densely populated than Xi’an.
During the Beijing Winter Olympics, the number of foreign arrivals is estimated to be less than 30,000, media reported.
The closed-loop management that began in Tokyo after Xi’an will continue in Beijing, the source said. He explained that through the “airport-Olympic Village” management, foreign athletes will enter the bubble without contact with the outside world. And their departure will follow the same principle. If they intend to stay in China, they will follow Chinese athlete regulations with a 21-day quarantine and negative nucleic acid test result before leaving the bubble.
Things to know about the 14th China National Games. Graphics: Deng Zijun / GT