Athletes throughout province compete for glory in games
From left: The 16th Shanxi Provincial Games opens in Datong on Tuesday evening. Renowned Shanxi athlete Su Yiming lights the flame of the main torch of the provincial games at its opening. [Photo by Ruan Yang for China Daily]
Gala highlights Shanxi's sporting achievements and boosts enthusiasm for fitness activities
The 16th Shanxi Provincial Games, now taking place in the northern Shanxi city of Datong, is seen by local officials as a gala to showcase the province's recent achievements in athletics, a promoter of mass sports and a booster for the sports economy.
The launch of the event was announced by Lan Fo'an, secretary of the Shanxi Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China, at the opening ceremony on Tuesday evening.
Jin Xiangjun, governor of Shanxi, also delivered a keynote speech at the ceremony. He said that the sports sector plays a role in improving people's physical and spiritual well-being, as well as promoting economic growth. It is now an important part of Shanxi's high-quality socioeconomic development.
"The prosperity of the sports sector in Shanxi is evidenced by the sustained improvement of sports facilities, the popularity of mass sports, the steady progress in athletics and the dynamic growth of the sports industry," Jin said.
He went on to say that the provincial games are also the highest-level and the largest-scale sports gala that displays the morale of Shanxi's athletes and residents who are in constant pursuit of something better and stronger.
He expressed his hope that the organizers, the staff members and the volunteers will work together to present an economical, safe and brilliant sports event.
Jin's keynote speech was followed by the oath-taking ceremony by representatives of athletes, coaches and referees, who pledged to ensure fair play during the event.
Then came a show with performances by local artists, augmented by multimedia and modern lighting and acoustic technologies.
The opening ceremony was wrapped up with a torch relay and flame lighting.
After receiving the torch from the last of five bearers, renowned Shanxi athlete Su Yiming lit the flame of the main torch at Datong Sports Center, the main venue of the event.
According to an organizing official of the event, the 16th provincial games consist of two categories of athletic sports and mass sports.
There are 719 contests for 26 athletic sports and 248 competitions for 22 mass sports.
"The combination of athletics and mass sports is an innovation of the games, which aim to engage the residents' enthusiasm in sports and fitness activities, as well as facilitating the integration of sports with tourism," the official said.
The official noted that the provincial games have been an incubator for elite athletes over the past decades.
These elite athletes include Su Yiming, who garnered one gold and one silver at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games. He was also the first athlete from Shanxi to win a Winter Olympics gold and first Chinese champion in the Olympic snowboarding category.
The list of star players also includes Li Yajie, Shanxi's first world champion in diving after she won a gold in the women's 1-meter springboard diving event during the 2022 World Aquatics Championships held in Budapest in June; the Shanxi archery team who won the national championship earlier this year; Yang Chang, a champion of this year's national swimming championship; and Zhao Yating, the winner of four gold medals and one silver at this year's national championships for rhythmic gymnastics.
The official noted that Shanxi's athletes had won one gold and three silvers altogether at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics and the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics. In 2022 alone, athletes from Shanxi won a total of 10 gold medals in international events.
The official especially highlighted the enthusiasm of residents for various sports during the event. While hundreds of amateur athletes are taking part in the games' mass sports competitions, a much greater number of Datong residents are participating in sports and fitness activities outside the games' venues, which are organized by communities and even themselves.
In Shanxi as a whole, mass sports and fitness activities are becoming increasingly popular thanks to the sustained growth of sports venues and facilities for residents over the past years.
Official statistics show that there were more than 116,000 venues in Shanxi for mass sports and fitness activities by the end of 2022. This can translate into 2.56 square meters per capita, an increase of 0.15 sq m compared with the figure in 2021.
It is reported that 585 community-organized sports events were held in Shanxi last year, engaging the participation of more than 50,000 people.
Data from the Shanxi Sport Bureau show that more than 36.4 percent of Shanxi residents were frequent participants in sports and fitness activities in 2022.
The enthusiasm for sports among residents has also boosted the development of the sports and fitness industry in Shanxi.
The Shanxi Sport Bureau released sports industry-related data for the first time in mid-March, saying that Shanxi's sports industry generated a gross profit of 16.83 billion yuan ($2.33 billion) in 2021, accounting for 0.75 percent of the provincial GDP that year.
Zhang Jufeng and Zhou Huifang contributed to this story.