Public Recreation Suffers as China Pays Olympic Bills

Exercise options include illegal swims in a frozen lake
By Rebecca Smith Hurd,  Newser User
Posted Aug 19, 2008 4:23 PM CDT
A swimmer takes to the icy water at Houhai Lake in Beijing, China.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – While elite athletes reap the benefits of Beijing’s lavish Olympic spending, Chinese citizens complain that public recreation programs are suffering, reports NPR. The government has directed $430 million to public sports facilities since 2000, but that’s only half its annual budget for training athletes. “Government resources aren't nearly enough to meet people's exercise needs,” said one official.

China's standard of living and its people's desire to exercise are increasing. Some Beijing residents are turning to informal private clubs; one group of swimmers meets daily at a murky, sometimes ice-covered lake. “Each visit to the swimming pool costs $4,” a 67-year-old member says. "Chairman Mao called for us to swim in lakes and rivers. We're keeping fit and saving money.”