Zhejiang shaping up for fitter and healthier future

Rural areas targeted as province’s heavy investment in sports facilities transforms villagers’ standard of living

Zhejiang province has been the cradle of many Chinese sports stars through the years, including sprinter Xie Zhenye and swimmer Fu Yuanhui. Apart from nurturing the nation’s elite athletes, Zhejiang is also firmly focused on promoting fitness among the general public – especially those who live in rural areas.

Zhejiang is one of China’s most densely inhabited provinces with a total area of 105,500 square kilometers and a population of about 58.5 million, among which 17.84 million live in rural areas.

According to Zheng Yao, director of the Zhejiang sports bureau, facilitating sports and fitness development in the province’s rural areas can help local people enjoy healthier and happier lives.

“I’ve traveled to more than 60 counties of 11 cities in our province. And we can see that the current sports facilities are still not sufficient to meet the fitness demands of the public. In rural areas, more sports venues and activities are needed,” said Zheng in China Hangzhou.

“We will increase the number of sports facilities and venues as well as the quality of related public services. We will continue to shrink the fitness development gap between our urban and rural areas.”

Since 2016, Zhejiang has increased its total number of multifunction community sports fields to 877. Zhejiang also boasts 14 province-level and 156 community-level fitness centers and sports parks, 471 swimming pools and 471 soccer pitches. In addition, the local sports bureau is organizing more sports activities for people in rural areas.

Take Xiaozhang village of Pan’an county, for example. The village invested 2.2 million yuan (about $320,000) to build a sports stadium that covers an area of around 1,600 square meters. The stadium can host about 100 events a year, with the resulting influx of fans and tourists helping the village, whose population totals around 400, to generate an annual income of about 4-5 million yuan.

“Sports and fitness development will make life in rural areas more energetic. The sports fields in a village or a community are usually the favorite places of local people,” Zheng added.

“For example, there is a sports stadium of over 2,000 square meters in Huilong village in the city of Ningbo. That contains a badminton court, a volleyball court, a yoga room and a swimming pool. The local villagers experience the same quality of sports life as in the big cities.”

In the first half of 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced a hiatus of fitness activities in Zhejiang Hangzhou.

However, despite people staying at home to avoid being infected, their desire to enjoy sports was not diminished, with the Zhejiang sports bureau organizing online challenges to encourage home workouts.

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