The cauldron is lit during the opening ceremony of the 12th Chinese National Games in Shenyang, northeast China's Liaoning Province, Aug. 31, 2013. (Xinhua/Yue Yuewei)
The 12th National Games, billed as China's mini-Olympics, opened amid a scaled-down but spectacular ceremony on Saturday afternoon.
Chinese President Xi Jinping opened the games in the Olympic Sports Center in the capital city of northeast China's Liaoning Province. The games will run through to Sept.12.
The quadrennial games, which features all the 28 Olympic sports, as well as baseball, softball and Wushu, attracted 9,770 athletes including Olympic swimming champions and world record holders Sun Yang and Ye Shiwen and badminton superstar Lin Dan.
The 38 participating delegations are from the provinces, municipalities, autonomous regions, Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions, the People's Liberation Army, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps and various sports associations of the trades such as railways, coal mining, forestry, finance, banking and aviation.
In line with the frugality campaign launched by the country's new leadership, the organizing committee has slashed the budget by 78 percent to keep it to a maximum of 800 million yuan (about 130 million U.S. dollars).X The opening ceremony, which cost about 10 percent of the original budget, was for the first time held in daytime since 1987 to cut the the lighting cost. The stage decoration and firework display were canceled.
The ceremony was preceded by a mass Taiji and aerobics performance. Instead of inviting pop stars, the organizers sent sport-loving amateurs to the center of the stage. A contingent of senior mothers, or "dama" as they are known to the world, performed a "fitness" dance, a routine usually practiced in public parks and squares.
The cauldron is seen during the opening ceremony of the 12th Chinese National Games in Shenyang, northeast China's Liaoning Province, Aug. 31, 2013. (Xinhua/Yue Yuewei)
Competition had begun before the games' official opening. The finals of 20 events including tennis, marathon, race walking, senior volleyball and modern pentathlon have concluded.
The national games, a testing ground for future Olympic champions, has also been used to appraise the work of provincial sports authorities.
Sun Yang, dual Olympic gold medalist who broke a world record in London, is right on the way to be the most-titled athlete, thanks to the unique method to count medals, which converts one Olympic gold medal to two for the national games and counts one world record set during the Olympics as a gold.
Having won five national games golds without breaking a sweat, the swimmer from the southeastern province of Zhejiang is expected to compete in the men's 100m, 200m, 400m and 1,500m freestyle events and three team events.