Delivering big thrills on a budget

Shanxi showing that cutting costs need not mean cutting quality

Last Thursday night’s spectacular opening ceremony of the Second National Youth Games had a wow factor befitting a major world championships.

For the 30,000-plus spectators at Shanxi Sports Center Stadium and tens of millions of TV viewers who tuned in to witness the stunning show, it looked as though expense had been spared.

But looks can be deceiving.

The ceremony was extravagant in appearance only, with organizers cutting costs by resisting the temptation to sign up a single celebrity or stage a grand fireworks display.

Instead, state-of-the-art virtual-reality and intelligent-robot technology was employed to amaze.

Hosting an economical Games has been an overriding principle of the organizers from the beginning, according to Zhang Fuming, vice-governor of Shanxi province.

“First of all, we had very strict rules,” he said. “The Second National Youth Games is the biggest and most comprehensive sports event that Shanxi province has ever organized.

“During the preparation, we devised clear financial regulations and rules to prevent any chance of spending unnecessary money.

“Secondly, we made a strict budget plan to make sure the money was well spent. We utilized what we have instead of building or buying everything new. After we finalized the budget plan, we stuck strictly to it, without exception.

“We also attracted sponsorship in terms of facilities, equipment, medals, transportation and communication services. From the support of all parties, the sponsorship totaled 420 million yuan ($60 million).”

An additional 30 million yuan was saved by the organizing committee’s decision to base itself in an old government building.

In terms of the competition venues, organizers worked to the principle: “Those that can be used should not be refurbished, and those that can be refurbished should not be replaced by a new venue.”

A total of 58 venues across 11 cities are being used, among which only 19 are new builds.

After the Games, about 80 percent of all the newly built and refurbished venues will be available to the public for use either for free or with very low admission prices to fuel the national fitness campaign.

“These venues will be great places for people to play sports after the Youth Games,” said Zhang.

“The Games presented us with an opportunity to upgrade public fitness facilities in the province.

“For example, in the city of Jincheng, over 800 new sports fields covering a total of one million square meters have been built over the past three years.

“During the 100 days before the opening ceremony, we organized over 500 fitness activities for the public across the province, with over 300,000 people participating.”

The cost-effective measures, however, have not resulted in a reduction in quality, with the needs of the athletes always at the forefront of organizers’ minds.

“During the National Youth Games, several basketball competitions have been played at Taiyuan University of Technology, with more than 600 athletes from 28 teams playing here,” said Lang Bing, who is in charge of the university’s venues and facilities.

“To ensure the players have the best quality environment, our university comprehensively upgraded two venues and two training courts in terms of lights, floors, seats and other facilities. The total investment reached about 20 million yuan.

“Before the Youth Games, the building of sports venues in our university was only to meet the demands of education.

“Now, we have upgraded the venues to meet the standards of hosting higher levels of competition.”

That’s exactly the kind of legacy the Youth Games wants to leave the province.

“It’s an important question: How can we inherit the legacy of the Second National Youth Games?” said Zhao Xiaochun, director of Shanxi Sports Bureau.

“We have to fully utilize the great resources and the great sports atmosphere that the Games will leave behind.

“The event is a great motivation to inspire more people in the province to participate in sports.

“The Youth Games will also benefit Shanxi’s development, economy and tourism.”

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