The opening ceremony of the Sixth National Farmers' Games is held in Quanzhou city in southeast China's Fujian Province on Sunday, October 26, 2008. [Photo: Xinhua]
Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu declared open the largest-ever National Peasants' Games in Quanzhou, Fujian Province on Sunday night, which was the first multi-sport gala in China after the Beijing Olympics and Paralympics.
The newly built 32,000-seat Haixia (Straits) Stadium witnessed a festive opening ceremony with a two-hour amazing performance made by 16,000 people from all walks of life.
As the only regular sports meeting for peasants in the world, the 6th edition of the Games which debuted in 1988 opened its arms for about 3,500 athletes hailing from China's 32 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities, including Taiwan. Hong Kong and Macao also sent delegations to observe the quadrennial get-together.
After two decades of development, the Games now boasts 15 sports and over 180 events, and has turned into one of the major sports events in China.
Unlike most games that highlight the limits of physical strength and competitiveness, the games for peasants emphasizes more on recreation and less on the results.
The Games not only features traditional sports like basketball, table tennis, athletics, shooting, Xiangqi (Chinese chess) and Taiji, also known as shadowboxing, but also has some special ones, such as tyre-pushing and food-carrying, dragon boating, kite flying, shuttlecocks and tug-of-war.
Yangko dance, a traditional folk dance commonly performed in China's northern provinces, is introduced into the Quanzhou Games this year.
In order to carry out a successful Games, 15 stadiums and other facilities have been built or refurbished in Quanzhou, one of the sports equipment production bases in China. The coastal city's economic growth rate has leapt to the front row in Fujian Province, which is on the west coast of the Taiwan Straits.
The Games cost the lion's share of 1 billion yuan (some 140 million US dollars) invested by the municipal government and private sectors.
The organizing committee not only provides each delegation with at least one mini-van and two cars, but also made all the competitions free for spectators, and all the tourist sites in the city are free for the participants of the Games.
Meanwhile, 5,300 volunteers will serve the Games directly, while around 7,000 city volunteers and hundreds of service stations scattered around the city will provide guiding and helping service for the tourists and the Games' participants.
"I hope all the participants will feel at home here. We will try our best to let them remember a hospitable Quanzhou," said volunteer Zhang Zhiling, a sophomore from Quanzhou Normal University.
Addressing the opening ceremony, Chinese Agricultural Minister Sun Zhengcai said, "A successful national peasants' games showcase the achievements made by the Chinese people in the 30 years of the reform and opening up to the outside world."
"Organizing the games demonstrates that China cares about the health and welfare of the 900 million peasants," said Zhang Changping, vice president of the organizing committee.
As more and more Chinese peasants have become well-off and paid more and more attention to their physical and mental health, field work is no longer the sole occupation for them. With such enthusiasm keeping on, the Chinese peasants spend more time in sports.
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