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We Observe the World

WOW|A leisure sports city,a group of sport fans

APD | Fri,2016-06-17

Cold wave could not cool people’s enthusiasm for sports in this city.

It is a city that once hosted an international sports game, while it is also a small and obscure city at Jiaodong peninsula in China.

Before 2015 World Leisure Games, Laixi, this country-level city of Qingdao, Shandong Province, seldom appears in the news. But now, when you type in “Laixi” and “Leisure” in Chinese on Baidu search, it can be found that a lot of news is exploring the development of leisure sports after the World Leisure Games in this city.


With the theme of “In leisure, In Nature”, 2015 World Leisure Games was held from September 12 to September 21 in Laixi. The World Leisure Games is sponsored by the World Leisure Organization, a non-governmental organization which has maintained good partnership with UNESCO. It is held every five years, and the first-ever World Leisure Games was held in ChunCheon, the capital of Gangwon Province, South Korea.

Compared with competitive sports, leisure sports focus more on the improvement of the quality of life rather than success in the competitions. The purpose of World Leisure Games is to promote leisure sports among ordinary people and to improve everyone’s life quality through their leisure experiences. In those games, people may not find any shining star but see many ordinary people who really enjoy them.

In this small city, those leisure sports-loving people can be seen almost everywhere. For most of them, it even becomes part of their lives.

“I never imagined that I could complete a marathon before I met them”

“Every time I told people I had ever completed a full marathon, they didn’t believe me,” Zhang Zhigang, a 35-year-old man with a large beer belly, complained.

The marathon is a long-distance running event with an official distance of 42.195 kilometers. It is a huge physical challenge to any ordinary people, no to mention a 200-pound man.

But Zhang Zhigang did complete it. In the marathon of 2015 World Leisure Games, he completed this race within five hours and fifty minutes.

“I know it’s not a satisfactory result for most runners, but it’s an unprecedented achievement for me,” said him, “And you have to know, I was 20 pounds heavier than now before I started running.”

When it comes to running, Zhang said he used to feel scared. As a middle school teacher in charge of a class, he was required to run with his students during breaks. In most cases, he just took one lap around the playground. If he took another lap, he would “faint on the spot”.

So,how could he pull off such a turnaround?

Zhang said when he made up his mind to lose weight, he heard the story of Chen Yurong. Chen, who diagnosed with a fatty liver, walked 10 kilometers per day for seven months, regardless of the weather, so she could donate part of a healthy liver to her son. The seven-month continuous walking made her liver condition disappear, which was called a “miracle” by the doctor.

Influenced by Chen’s story, Zhang began to walk around Laixi Lake, the biggest artificial reservoir in Jiaodong peninsula, every night after class. It was there that he came across many running friends with rich knowledge of exercises.

According to Zhang, his health is improving little by little as body weight decreases. For him, it took three and a half years.

“While I didn’t lose weight in a short time, like many others, I owned a life-long and healthy hobby,” said he, “I will keep running.”

“After starting cycling, I consider everything from the health angle”

Except running, cycling is the most popular sports in Laixi. It is because there is a famous cycle lane around Dagu River, the largest river in Jiaodong peninsula.

Zhang Xinling is one of the cycling enthusiasts.

“This year, I persisted in cycling to work to the last day.” Zhang Xinling wrote this sentence on her WeChat Moments, the most popular social media platform in China.

This 45-year-old civil servant has been riding the bike for over two years. Now, she is one of the members of Sunshine Bicycle Club, a famous one in Laixi, and has more than 10 riding friends.

Actually, almost each photo in her moments contains three essential elements: bicycles, riding friends and various roads. In the latest photo, both she and her friend wear red and white cycling dress, standing in contrast to the yellow and black barricade behind them.

The furthest she has ever ridden is Aoshanwei, a town famous for its excellent seafood, which is about 58 kilometers away.

“Joining this bicycle club makes me feel happy,” she said, “The relationship between members there is so pure, mixing no stake. No matter who has any difficulty, the others will rush to help him or her.”

Zhang Xinling recalled that her bicycle once had a blow-out on the road, “all male members came to my help at once.” Since then she has never missed any activities organized by the club.

When referring to the greatest gain from riding, she said: “After starting riding, I consider everything from the health angle, including the expectation for my son.”

She admitted that in the past she had a very high expectation like other traditional Chinese parents for her son and was very strict with him. But since she gained happiness from riding, her attitude has changed a lot. 

“The kind of happiness gained from riding made me reconsider what I had done to my son in the past 20 years. And finally I realized the greatest expectation I had for him should be the health and happiness of his life, rather than the so-called success in the society,” said she.

The bike enthusiast also bought a multi-speed bicycle for her college-aged son and encouraged him take part in their riding activities in his vacation. As she expected, her son felt vey delighted. In her lead, even many of her colleagues started to ride their bikes to work.

At present, her greatest wish is to ride to Da Ze Mountain, one of the most well-known mountain in Jiaodong Region, which is about 130 kilometers far from her house. 

She also wishes to do other sports like yoga if time permits.

“Since I engaged in riding, this idea has always been at the back of my mind: sports will make me a better person. The more exercises I get, the healthier and happier I will be.”

“Because of in-line roller skating, he gave up online games”

Except dancing Da Ma, which is another name of women over 40 in China, teenagers who practice in-line roller skating are the most common group of people in People’s Square, one of the largest public square in Laixi.

Zhou Zixuan may be the eldest one among them, while he is only 14 years old. Mingling with a bunch of kids, he seems a little clumsier and more uncoordinated. Though often tumbling over the floor, he never burst into tears or complains like other children in his training team.

According to his mother, she didn’t support her son to learn roller skating at the first beginning because this sport in her view sounded “a bit dangerous”. In addition, she also thought Zhou was too old to learn it.   

However, it is hard to stop once he has started.

Zhang’s enthusiasm for in-line roller skating astonished his mother. She never imagined this sport would help her solve a problem plaguing her for many years. Before that, it was never easy for her to talk about her son’s online-game addiction. She could not even count how many times she had quarrels with her son due to this. But, it never repeated since he started to learn roller skating.

“Because of in-line roller skating, he gave up online games,” she said, “And he spent most of his leisure time learning basic skills taught by the coach.”

Zhou sets a goal for himself: to learn basic skills quickly then start to practice more difficult tricks as soon as possible. It it because he feels this very cool.

“I watched a competition of free-style roller skating and developed an immediate attraction to this sport,” Zhou said, “the skater was so cool!”

Facing the high school entrance examination, actually he does not have much time to take training courses. But Zhou said he would not give it up simply because he didn’t think roller skating wasted his time. On the contrary, it made him more motivated and focused when he was studying.

“I don’t go fishing for catching much fish but for relaxing my mind.”

Compared with running, cycling and roller skating, angling looks less like a sport. It is generally believed that angling requires sitting for long periods of time, so it is quiet rather than active.

However, Jiang Guanhua doesn’t agree with it.

The 41-year-old man is an experienced angler. In his opinion, angling is not as simple as sitting and waiting. In fact, it involves a complex set of movements, which will have a positive influence both on people’s body and mind.

“For example, if I decide to go fishing some day, I have to get up around 3am to get the best position,” he mentioned, “you know, ‘the early bird catches the worm’ after all. But even that does not guarantee that I’m going to catch any fish this day, so it’s important to have a good state of mind.”

He said he used to have little patience and get angry easily. He can still remember that when he just started to learn angling. One day he went fishing by Laixi Lake, but he didn’t get a single one after a long time. At that moment, a young angler who doesn’t seem to have much experience started play loud music, which chafed him. Then he called the young man some bad names and nearly fought with him.

“It is because that many kinds of fishes especially wild carps are very sensitive to sounds,” Jiang explained, “Loud music must scare them away, so I would have fewer chances to hook any fish.”

But if it happens again, he would never do that. Jiang said angling made him keep a good mind and become indifferent to gains and losses in his life. Now he often reminds himself: “I don’t go fishing for catching much fish but for relaxing my mind.”

As his attitude towards angling changed, he caught more and more fish. The heaviest among them even reaches 20 kilograms. However, what pleased him most is the relaxed and swinging feel he gained from angling rather than the number or the weight of fish. And just because of this, he often releases the small fish.

Jiang would like to compare angling to life. As far as he is concerned, anglers should not get complacent when they hook much fish or feel depressed when they got little. The same is true in life. Only with a good state of mind can make both of those things even better.

Cold wave could not cool people’s enthusiasm for sports in this city. And the enthusiasm does not end with 2015 World Leisure Games.

Every morning when you wake up in this city, you will see a lot of running men like Zhang Zhigang on roads or some people riding their bikes like Zhang Xinling to work; Every night when you walk to the square, you will come across groups of teenagers like Zhou zixuan skating at high speed; If you have a walk around the lake on the weekend, you are likely to find many people fishing attentively like Jiang Guanhua. Of course, if you are careful enough, you may find there are different kinds of people doing various sports in almost every corner of this city.

All of them are not sports star, but it is those sports fans who make Laixi an active and vibrant city.

As their sweat pours from the city’s pores, worries trickle away and happiness follows.


Li Xue, 

First-year student of International Communication MA Program in Beijing Foreign Studies University. A Highly-motivated person with good communication skills.