Thrifty is the name of the new National Games
In keeping with Beijing's austerity policy, the 12th National Games will be far less lavish, but sports minister says drugs will not be tolerated
Organisers promised to present the most cost-effective National Games yet when the 12th edition of the event is unveiled at the Olympic Sports Centre in Shenyang, Liaoning province, today.
For the first time since 1987 in Guangzhou, the opening ceremony will take place in sunlight without any fireworks display. Attending will be President Xi Jinping, with an expected crowd of 60,000. The budget has been slashed from more than 90 million yuan (HK$113 million) to a mere 9 million yuan.
The last major Games in China, the 2011 Shenzhen World University Games, lavished more than 300 million yuan on its opening ceremony.
There will be no large-scale cultural performances which have characterised other previous major multi-sport events on the mainland, and the entire opening ceremony will last for only two hours.
"There have been some big adjustments in the format of this National Games as this is in line with the central government's policy of practising thrift management in every aspect," said Vice Sports Minister Xiao Tian yesterday.
"Not only in the form of expenditure but also in other related activities such as the torch relay and receptions, we have scaled down the size of the Games. The number of events and participants has also been revised."
There are 31 events, including the 28 sports to be contested at the 2016 Olympic Games, compared with 33 in Shandong four years ago. The number of athletes is 9,770, 1,220 less than in Shandong. Even the number of approved journalists has been cut by over 1,000 to 3,000.
There are 25 new venues specially built for the Shenyang Games out of a total 64.
Xiao reiterated official determination to combat doping and other malpractices at the Games.
As an "in-house" major sporting event without the monitoring of international bodies, the National Games have a bad reputation for being manipulated by officials and athletes, whose futures rely heavily on good results.
"There is no way we will tolerate malpractice," said Xiao.
Organisers will set up 55 doping control points and collect 2,535 samples - an increase of 260 from four years ago - of which 275 will be blood doping tests, the rest being urine samples.
Meanwhile, cyclist Wong Kam-po has endured possibly the toughest training period in a career spanning more than 20 years, but his target is not a gold medal.
"I am now about 80 per cent as fit as when I competed at the London Olympic Games last summer and this has been achieved in a very short time," said the 40-year-old Wong, who returned to the competitive arena in April after retiring to become a Hong Kong team coach late last year. "It's just wonderful, isn't it? This involved a lot of hard work and effort."
Head coach Shen Jinkang decided in April that Wong, once his most prominent rider but who had become his assistant, should race again in the National Games to bolster their hopes.
"We were in Yunnan a couple of months ago for an intensive altitude training camp," said Wong. "There were times I could not sleep because of the high-intensity training, but I hung in there."
Wong admitted his main role in the six-member road race squad would be helping his younger teammates win medals. "But if something happens, I may take up the attacking role and mount challenges as I still have the ability. You never know."