Interviewing people from local communities and researching their
sporting interests, finding venues for their activities and
coordinating the building of new ones, it would be reasonable to
consider this work of a whole team.
However just one man took on the job Zhao Xiaokong, who was
appointed to oversee the development of local sport in
Shanxi Province of north China.
Zhao is a mid-level official, the head of the "Sports-for-All"
division of the provincial sports bureau. From 2003 to 2005, he
took on a rural sports development project of immense scale: the
Shanxi Da-Yun Sports Corridor.
The project is so named because the facilities are all built
along the Datong-Yuncheng Road, a provincial expressway cutting
through the heartland of Shanxi.
Zhao was responsible for developing 650 basketball courts, 25
gymnasiums, six sports clubs and installing 1,980 pieces of
sporting equipment in a province known mainly for the coal and
vinegar it produces.
The project was financed by the National Development and Reform
Commission (NDRC) and the
State General Administration of Sport (SGAS), the national sports
authority, which contributed 8 million yuan (US$980,000), along
with Shanxi's local government who contributed supplementary
Zhao's project serves around 2 million farmers from some 600
villages along the expressway, and has earned commendation from the
The project plays an important role in the social development of
the region. "Every basketball court is good for killing the
business of 10 gambling dens," according to a local saying.
A national fitness program for farmers will be launched soon
across the country as part of China's effort to give more
education, more medical insurance and services, and more cultural
choices to its rural citizens, a source with SGAS said.
Zhao's project is now held up as a national example for the
farmers' fitness program. He receives many guests from all over
China and provides advice on the managerial aspects of his project
for the development of others. The "Western Henan Sports Corridor,"
for instance, is due for completion in 2009 in the western part of
Henan Province, the largest agrarian province in central
In 2001, according to the SGAS's national fitness survey, 17.2
percent of men in rural areas did not have adequate fitness levels,
compared with 11.6 percent of laborers in urban areas. For women,
the gap was even greater, with 21.2 percent not fit enough,
compared with just 8.4 percent of their urban counterparts.
According to Feng Jianzhong, vice minister of SGAS, the
continually improving rural economy and overall progress of society
has led farmers who make up 70 percent of the nation's population
to progress from being content with enough food and clothes to
wanting a richer life with more meaningful pursuits.
"They are asking for ways to spend their leisure time and also
to lead a healthy life," he said.
Basketball and table tennis were the farmers' favorite sporting
activities. "But the existing facilities are far from enough to
meet the minimum of their demands," Feng said.
Statistics from a survey of national sports fields show that
among the 850,000 fields in China, only 8.18 percent are in towns
and villages. According to the SGAS, the sports population in rural
areas only covers 8.4 percent of the total population.
Officials have been considering ways to deal with the lack of
sporting facilities in rural areas over the past few years. The
Shanxi sports corridor is one of the pilot schemes. Another pilot
project in Lingbao County of western Henan Province, has seen
villages starting up their own basketball league, nicknamed "Our
own NBA," by the locals.
With the national fitness program for farmers to be officially
launched soon, standard basketball courts will appear in more and
more villages throughout the country.
The program aims to bring at least one cement-paved basketball
court equipped with a pair of standard basketball hoops and two
outdoor table-tennis tables for each village included in the
Government finance will cover building costs the NDRC and the
SGAS along with community support.
"The main purpose of this is to do solid work for the farmers
and not to increase their financial burden," Feng said.
The SGAS hopes that by 2010 one-sixth of Chinese villages, or
around 100,000 of them, will be provided with sporting facilities.
This will benefit 150 million farmers, according to an SGAS policy
"Man is the most precious factor of all things on earth, and the
most precious factor for man is good health," Feng said.
"So we hope, as China is putting out stronger performance in
international competitions, sports get more popular among all
people at the same time."
Feng told China Daily that in 2005 the SGAS invested
about 270 million yuan (US$33.3 million) in public sport, while 480
million yuan (US$59.2 million) was directed to competitive sport,
in what he called "a balance appropriate with national
Feng did not reveal, however, how the investment allocation will
be balanced in 2006.
(China Daily April 4, 2006)