Monday, 15 September 2008

The Olympic petite mort

I haven't visited Beijing since my return to China, but there's been something that's been bugging me since getting settled at Fudan which seems to be at odds with an expectation of Olympic Spirit.

Now I timed my return to China pretty much in sync with the end of the Olympics, so everything I gleaned about China's sporting spectacle was through the British press and blogs. Nevertheless, as someone who likes to keep fit and has used Chinese university sporting facilities in the past I was pretty optimistic about what Fudan has to offer in the way of gyms and pools.

And I wasn't disappointed when I did a scout around campus: basketball courts, badminton courts, tennis courts, a huge state of the art sports stadium, and a 50 metre swimming pool. However, when attempting to use these facilities I was kicked in the face in a way that can only happen in China.

To begin with, the swimming pool is an outdoor pool, and on trying to get into the building I'm met with a sign that says it closes from the 28th of August. Not entirely believing this I ventured into the sports shop underneath it and asked one of the girls working there. I'm promptly told that it shuts during term time, and opens again during the holidays. The reason for this being that the weather is getting cold and so, being an outdoor pool, not really the best for winter swimming. This had alarm bells going though, it's still pretty damn warm in Shanghai and, despite the recent rain coming off Typhoon Sinlaku, most days are pretty good outdoor swimming days.

Failing that, I tried to play some tennis on some great looking courts next to the pool. The door was shut, but there was a woman sitting in her booth, so I went up to ask if we could play. 不开 (not open) she replied, in a very shrill voice. Ok, what time does it open. 不开! she screamed again. Through her really strong Shanghai accent I thought I understood that class was going on and, remembering that sports facilities usually don't open until class is out, left to find another, non university-run tennis court.

It just seems strange to me that one the top three universities in the country, which does have decent facilities, doesn't want to open them up more and let people play some sports. After all, the Olympics only finished a couple of weeks ago, and the Paralympics are still going on – if there was ever a time for the Chinese to be going sports crazy, this is it. I've experienced enough of China to know not to expect certain things, but I did expect to be swimming in a crammed pool, or waiting a long time to get onto jam packed tennis or badminton courts, not to be the only person peering listlessly into a deserted lobby, wondering what was going on.

1 comment:

  1. Can't you go higher up the bureaucratic chain and find out why they are all shut? Where do the students go then?