Being Active in Beijing

Matt | Being Active | Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

I’ve always been an active guy, or at least I’ve tried to be.  Back in Canada, I’d love to play touch football, ball or ice hockey, or go for runs through Toronto’s High Park.  So, when I arrived in Beijing, I didn’t realize how much pain this would cause me.

Since arriving in Beijing 3 years ago, I craved being able to play sports or to do something active outdoors.  I started with going for runs around my home.  Soon I discovered that it was not doing my “body good” to jog behind a 3 wheel diesel truck spewing out exhaust fumes. So I put my exercise dreams on hold.  A few years later, I finally signed up for a gym and was quite pleased to be able to run, fumes free, at least a few times a week.  My emotional breakthrough came when I found out there was ball hockey and ice hockey here in Beijing.  At that point I became ecstatic.  Even though I’ve reached an emotion peak, I still long for being able to enjoy the outdoors.

Recently, I came across an article from Asia Times Online, A Hurdle Too High for China, which hit at the centre of my frustrations.   The article goes on to talk about how in Beijing, there simply aren’t enough exercise facilities for all the people.  That even though China did superbly well in the Olympics and that the Chinese national teams are well-funded and well-trained, unfortunately for the average person living in China this does not affect our lives except every four years during the Olympics.

My big dream is that the success in the Olympics will push for changes in the way sport is seen in this country.  That I’ll be able to go to a park, hopefully one near to my home and be able to go for a run outside, without wearing a mask.

Unfortunately, from what I’ve seen so far, sport seems to be for the either the young, university crowd after they’ve finished their hours of memorizing text books, or for the old, retired crowd who wake up just after dawn to do tai chi in the parks.  For us in the middle, it’s quite difficult to play sports and to stay active.

I’m not sure why this is the way it is.  Maybe it’s a cultural thing, that middle-aged people in China, aged 25-55, shouldn’t be playing sports.  Instead they should be earning money, having a family, and earning more money.  Or if it’s a developing country thing, that people here can’t afford the heavy cost of renting a gym to play basketball, and instead it’s cheaper to play badminton on the sidewalk in front of the house.  And it also could simply be a China thing that they can’t build enough free basketball courts for people to play on because there are so many people; the courts will always be busy.  Of course it could be something else too that I’ve missed entirely.

All I know is that I’m still dreaming of going for that run, outside.

Powered by WordPress | Theme by Roy Tanck