Profile: Empowering rural communities through sports development

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WUHAN, March 2 (Xinhua) -- At tennis courts scattered throughout Wenfeng Village in central China's Hubei Province, tennis enthusiasts of all ages can be seen vigorously swinging rackets.

While tennis is still viewed by many as an elite activity, residents of the small village now consider casual matches among family and friends the top choice for keeping fit.

"I'm more than delighted to see more and more villagers enjoying public sports facilities," said Ding Yalin, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee and deputy head of the Hubei Administration of Sport. As a CPPCC member in the sports sector, Ding is an avid promoter of rural sports development.

Last year, she submitted a proposal on boosting the construction of rural sports facilities and venues, based on years of research and questionnaire surveys conducted by universities. The proposal aims to help boost rural revitalization through sports development.

Ding's proposal garnered significant attention from relevant government departments. Last May, a national document was released to promote the balanced distribution of public fitness service resources in urban and rural areas, and in September, Hubei introduced a three-year plan for advancing fitness facilities across the province.

In light of relevant policies, Hubei organized multiple training sessions for cultivating sports instructors covering popular programs such as tai chi, softball, table tennis, basketball and square dancing, sending more professional coaches to urban and rural communities.

Yu Yunxia, a 59-year-old resident in the provincial capital Wuhan, is impressed by the changes. "With fitness equipment in my neighborhood, and a fitness park 3 km away, I can exercise whenever I leave my home," Yu said.

In 2023, Ding visited nearly 30 county-level regions in the province, and was surprised to find that smart fitness equipment, fitness trails and cycling trails had started to appear in rural areas. "Public fitness facilities and venues have basically covered all townships in Hubei -- a drastic change compared with over a decade ago," she said.

Taking advantage of sports development, an increasing number of villages in Hubei have embarked on the journey of exploring sports tourism. For example, Yaozhihe Village in Xiangyang held Hubei's first rural marathon, attracting runners from other provinces to participate.

Ding does not come from a sports background, and she was worried that her lack of professional knowledge would impact on the performance of her duties. To address this issue, before conducting research on the front line, she consulted relevant laws, regulations and policies, and studied academic journals.

During this year's Spring Festival holiday, Ding was busy refining her proposal on strengthening fitness for the elderly, another weak link she spotted during research.

"More and more elderly people are beginning to pay attention to health and fitness, but at present, the supply of public sports services for them is still insufficient," Ding said.

"I will do my utmost to put forward feasible suggestions on issues of common concern, thus contributing to the construction of a sporting powerhouse, a healthy China and the economic and social development of Hubei," she said. Enditem

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