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Traditional Sports Showcase Diversity
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Special activities were held across Beijing earlier this week to mark the two-year countdown to the opening of Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.


Among the onlookers was a group of British tourists, who enjoyed colorful traditional sports activities at the Chinese Ethnic Culture Park.


Roy Bawden, who was among the group, said that he thought the Chinese capital would have a great Olympics in 2008.


He added it was great that so many members of the public were involved in the build-up.


The office clerk has previously been to the Sydney and Athens Olympics.


About 160 staff from minority ethnic groups who work at the park took part in the event, which showcased the traditional sports of China's 56 ethnic groups as a special way to welcome the upcoming Games.


After watching wrestling shows performed by six Mongolians, another British visitor, Geoff Pearson, said the traditional sports were "brilliant."


"I hadn't expected to see so much mass participation in China to mark the Games," he added.


Fellow tourist Val Hardy said: "We'd like to come to Beijing in 2008 to view the Games."


Public involvement


Peng Yi, a performer from the Tujia ethnic group in Central China's Hunan Province, who took part in a performance, said she was becoming more aware of the Olympics.


"Previously, I only had a vague idea of the Beijing Olympics. Now that I am in a troupe performing dances to promote the Olympics, I have become quite proud of it," she said.


"I hope Chinese athletes can get records at the Games, and I'll do my best to help spread the Olympic spirit."


He Liqiong, a performer from the Naxi ethnic group in southwest China's Yunnan Province, said she would continue practicing the folk dances even after the 2008 Games.


"The dances will not only show our involvement in mass sports, but also are helpful to our daily fitness," she said.


Qiqige, a Mongolian girl from north China's Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, said:"I hope the Olympics in Beijing will help to promote our awareness of the importance of dancing and artistic performance. When we understand them better, we will come to see their value and love them more and more."


Showcasing culture


Li Guosheng, director of the Activities Department at the Chinese Ethnic Culture Park, said he hoped the folk sports displays at the park would be integrated into the nation's fitness campaign amidst Beijing's drive to prepare for the 2008 Games.


"I must say people from our 56 ethnic groups are good at singing and dancing. Their traditional ethnic sports are an important part of the country's sports activities and carry a precious cultural heritage. Many of the ethnic sports activities are not only good for health but also have high artistic value, and rich recreational and educational functions," he said.


"The hosting of the Olympic Games in 2008 will be an excellent chance for us to promote the ethnic sports culture.


"So far, we've arranged sets of dances that incorporate many cultural gems of the 56 ethnic groups.


"When foreigners come to see the Games in 2008, they can also come and enjoy our ethnic sports and our ethnic culture," he said.


Located southwest of the Beijing National Olympic Park, the ethnic culture park covers an area of 50 hectares. It contains two exhibition halls and a range of displays of the 56 ethnic groups in China.


There are also model replicas of villages of 48 of the minority groups.


The construction of villages for the remaining eight ethnic groups will be completed before 2008, said Wang Kun, deputy director of the park's Information Department.


Cao Junzi, a performer from the Tujia ethnic group at the event, said that since the founding of New China, the government has attached great importance to the development of traditional ethnic sports, which now amount to about 1,000 different kinds.


They include Mongolian wrestling, horsemanship and archery; kicking the shuttlecock and tug-of-war of the Hui minority; Tibetan yak racing; the Miao people's dragon-boat racing; Manchu skating and the stilt-walking of the Dong people, he said.


(China Daily August 11, 2006)


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