Un­hap­pi­ness of a long dis­tance run­ner

Can we ex­pect more govern­ment-spon­sored play­grounds and gyms for or­di­nary peo­ple?

China Daily (USA) - - VIEW -

Ihad not ex­pected a rou­tine work­out the other day to turn into a catch-me-if-you­can game. Not when Chi­nese ath­letes had started their medal race in earnest at the Rio Olympic Games.

It was a hot sum­mer evening. I put onmy run­ning shoes, ac­ti­vated the Joyrun app onmy smart­phone and hit the road. It was sul­try, and I could smell the fumes from ve­hi­cles. So in­stead of run­ning on pave­ments nearmy neigh­bor­hood as I usu­ally do, I headed for the run­ning track of a univer­sity not far from where I live.

Run­ning on the cam­pus, rather than in an ill-ven­ti­lated gy­mor on noisy streets, has al­ways been en­joy­able. So as I whizzed through the gate of the univer­sity to­ward the well-lit track sur­rounded by a high iron fence, I could feel the adrenaline rush­ing to the rhythm ofmy steps.

All of a sud­den— out of thin air — some­one popped up in front of me. Had I not man­aged to stop im­me­di­ately I would have knocked the se­cu­rity guard down.

“Give me money,” the man yelled. A se­cu­rity guard asked me to pay en­try fee. How­could I for­get about it?

Al­low me to take a di­ver­sion here. A Bei­jing Youth Daily in­ves­ti­ga­tion last month showed most of the 14 uni­ver­si­ties it sur­veyed in the city kept their sports fa­cil­i­ties closed to the pub­lic, even though no stu­dents used them dur­ing the sum­mer va­ca­tion.

Why? Univer­sity em­ploy­ees said se­cu­rity rea­sons and wor­ries about the fa­cil­i­ties be­ing dam­aged by out­siders com­pelled them to do so even though the govern­ment has been urg­ing them since 2007 to keep their sports fa­cil­i­ties open to the pub­lic. The Na­tional Fit­ness Pro­gram (2016-20) is­sued by the State Coun­cil, China’s Cab­i­net, in June once again urged uni­ver­si­ties to open their fa­cil­i­ties to the pub­lic, but few have done so be­cause it is not oblig­a­tory.

The univer­sity where I was stopped is known for its busi­ness and trade-re­lated dis­ci­plines and for years it has been charg­ing 10 yuan ($1.5) to out­siders who use its run­ning track, ei­ther to dis­suade them from do­ing so or to make some easy money. InNew Delhi, that amount can en­able a per­son to use fa­cil­i­ties at sta­di­ums and sports com­plexes for a whole month un­der a pay-and-use scheme.

I have known the univer­sity rule for long. But that night, I didn’t have a sin­gle penny on me. I have al­ways been a law-abid­ing cit­i­zen, and I hate to ar­gue with any­one or hurt a per­son in any way. But that night, at that mo­ment, I did not want to back off.

Per­haps I was in­censed by the man’s rude­ness, or an­gry at the univer­sity’s pol­icy which seems like ex­tor­tion. With­out a sec­ond thought, in the blink of an eye, I dodged past the se­cu­rity guard and darted off to­ward the track.

Caught com­pletely off guard, the man was al­ready a dozen me­ters be­hind me when he changed into chase mode. But he stopped after a few steps.

After the first round of the track, I sawthe se­cu­rity guard stand­ing one hand stretch­ing out to catch me. I gave up. All the joy and fun as­so­ci­ated with run­ning had gone. I was not an­gry with the se­cu­rity guard, who was just try­ing to do his job. I was dispir­ited.

While Chi­nese ath­letes were adding more gold medals to their kitty in Rio de Janeiro, many sports fa­cil­i­ties at home were ly­ing un­used. Can we ex­pect more govern­ment-spon­sored play­grounds and gyms for or­di­nary peo­ple?

The au­thor is a se­nior writer with China Daily. huangx­i­angyang@chi­nadaily.


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