Sport in China

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“We are honoured and humbled by the International Olympic Committee’s decision to award Beijing the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.”

China has redefined itself as a sporting nation, or at least as a nation able to pull off great sporting events with aplomb (exhibit a: the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games). The nation seems to be capitalising on this success by competing against Kazakhstan to hold the 2022 Winter Olympic Games and, as of a few weeks ago, winning. When Harry was here over winter, we visited the impressive Olympic Park and witnessed firsthand the lengths that China are going to advertise itself as the perfect candidate (click here for our Chinese skiing experience) – as anyone who watched the Beijing Olympic Opening Ceremony will remember, the Chinese don’t do grand public events by half. It is an opportunity to impress the world and its wife, not only by throwing money at an event but also by showing the nation’s manpower and ability to coordinate (or coerce) its citizens to mobilise.

Opening Ceremony for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the National Stadium

Opening Ceremony for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games at the National Stadium

My experiences of sport in China have been much less grandiose and more confined to the Peking University Khoo Teck Puat Gymnasium. For £100 a student can purchase a year’s membership which includes access to the varied exercise classes on offer as well as entry to the main gym and use of facilities. The main gym reminds me of a seedy underground Californian joint – there is a conspicuous lack of natural light and the walls are plastered with pictures of body builders from the ’90s. This combined with the musk that assaults your senses when you enter the testosterone filled weights zone is enough to put the weak of spirit off, but I grew to enjoy the chilled atmosphere the non weights areas of the gym offered. Liberty and I also started the year making the most of the free classes but the varying quality of the teachers and exercise on offer was a little off-putting (marching on the spot to various beats for 45 minutes was a low point).

A very photoshopped image of the Peking University Khoo Teck Puat Gymnasium

Peking University Khoo Teck Puat Gymnasium

Where our exercise classes took place

Where our exercise classes took place

Outside of Khoo Teck Puat, I made it to a fantastic Christmas “Heyrobics” session for a tinsel filled exercise extravaganza led by Swedish expats. My friends were more consistent in going (Alex and Alex) but unfortunately the distance and price made it a one time event for me. It was a highlight of the exercise year however, and I would highly recommend it to any expats wanting to partake in fun (but tough) exercise with friends. We’ve also had the opportunity to see some fantastic sporting events, including Beijing vs Shanghai football and the China Open tennis tournament.

Our view of the football

Our view of the football

Alex, Caroline, me, and Alex looking suitably Christmassy

Alex, Caroline, me, and Alex looking suitably Christmassy at Heyrobics

Apart from one or two runs throughout the year, pollution has stopped play when it comes to outdoor exercise. We’ve all been very impressed/intrigued by the students on the track in jeans jogging in the smog in between lectures and I’ve seen some very questionable fashion exhibited on the treadmills in the gym and in the classes. Chinos on the weights bench are pretty normal and glittery sandals, and even heels, are not the exception. I’m mainly impressed by how they manage not to pass out from the Beijing summer heat in their various get-ups (I’m sure I’m known as the very red and sweaty 外国人/foreigner and I wear normal, light gym wear).

Sensible shoes (with tinsel)

Sensible shoes (with tinsel)

Overall, Beijing has been very good to me sport-wise (other than not being able to play sport for PKU – see my blog post Campus Life) and my 10am lecture starts have let me get in many an early morning workout. The pollution should only get better after the news of Beijing winning the bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics and I look forward to seeing the city’s continuing sporting achievements in the future.

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