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Rural sports events gain attention at annual "two sessions"

2024-03-09 07:11:00 Source:Xinhua Author:
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In 2023, a series of grassroots but high-profile football and basketball tournaments staged and enjoyed by rural residents grabbed widespread attention and sparked growing enthusiasm for mass sports across China.

The zeal hasn't subsided. At the ongoing "two sessions," the annual meetings of China's top legislature and top political advisory body, topics such as maintaining the popularity of such events and amplifying their role in the country's rural revitalization drive remain hot among lawmakers and political advisors.

Tang Yueqiang, a deputy to the National People's Congress, hails from Qiandongnan Miao and Dong Autonomous Prefecture in southwest China's Guizhou Province. The region is home to the renowned Village Super League, or "Cun Chao" in Chinese, and the Village Basketball League, dubbed "Cun BA" as a mark of tribute to famous national basketball associations both at home and abroad.

Unlike professional sports, these village sports tournaments feature players from diverse backgrounds. On the field, they are sports stars, but in their daily lives, they work as vendors, drivers or butchers. These sporting events have also served as a platform to showcase local culture. For instance, during match breaks in "Cun Chao," villagers dressed in traditional ethnic costumes sing folk songs and dance, creating a festive atmosphere.

With its grassroots vibe and unique blend of ethnic culture and sports, the tournaments have quickly gained popularity, drawing not only tourists from across the country but also representatives from the English Premier League to explore potential collaborations.

According to Tang, the events have served as an important catalyst for local rural revitalization and regional development, especially in the counties of Taijiang and Rongjiang, which host "Cun BA" and "Cun Chao," respectively.

In 2023, Taijiang received more than 2.89 million visits, up almost 75 percent compared to the previous year, with the county's total tourism-related income reaching 3.3 billion yuan (about 463 million U.S. dollars), which was nearly 95 percent higher than the previous year, he said.

As for Rongjiang, the county received around 7.61 million tourists and raked in nearly 8.4 billion yuan in tourism-related revenue in 2023, rising about 52 percent and 74 percent year on year, respectively, Tang said.

The success of these tournaments has pooled the strength of sectors including culture, sports, tourism and commerce in facilitating rural revitalization, and injected strong impetus into the development of rural areas, he added.

Highlighting the significance of these events in China's pursuit of becoming a sporting powerhouse, Bao Mingxiao, a national political advisor and a scholar at Beijing Sport University, said that the various functions and values of such events reflect the spirit of this pursuit.

Village basketball and football leagues are not just sports events. They also serve as an important platform to invigorate local communities and boost local development, said Bao. By engaging in these sports activities, the general public also participates in primary-level social governance, which marks a change in the role of mass sports.

National political advisor Ding Yalin, who is also deputy head of Hubei's provincial administration of sport, said that the boom in sports events in rural areas indicates that people's demand for fitness and sports facilities has seen a surge.

"From the perspective of public services, we should enrich the role of sports and inspire more people to participate," Ding said.

Regarding the future development of rural sports events, Bao said he believes efforts should be aimed at maintaining their local features while fostering interactions between rural and urban areas.

Such interactions will spur sales of rural products, promote rural sports tournaments as a brand, boost tourism consumption and contribute to the momentum of sustainable development, Bao added.

Noting that the widespread popularity of village basketball and football leagues has a lot to do with Guizhou's unique features and government support, Tang said other regions can draw on this successful experience and create their own sports events, thereby delivering comprehensive benefits to the people.

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