The sport of polo is not exclusive to the West. The equestrian game was all the rage more than 1,000 years ago in the city of Chang’an (now Xi’an) in northwest China, the ancient capital of the dynamic Tang Dynasty.

Known as Ji Ju in ancient China, polo is like field hockey on horseback, in which two teams use sticks to drive a ball into the goals. The sport gained wide popularity among officials and the public during the Tang Dynasty. The energy of the game vibrated across the ancient city against the background of the crack of sticks and the clip-clop of galloping horses.

Part of a Tang Dynasty polo painting unearthed in Shaanxi Province/Xinhua

Time flies and seas change, but people’s love for sports in Xi’an has remained, with the city on a “non-stop” ride towards an exciting future.

Wang Changsheng, 71, is an energetic Xi’an native. He has been running every day for 55 years. As an experienced runner, he is not only active in Xi’an, but also around the world, completing the four major marathons of Boston, Berlin, Chicago and New York. He also started preparing for the Tokyo and London marathons a year before the events. The outbreak of the COVID-19 disrupted his plans, but Wang has not let up training, jogging more than 200 kilometers at home in some 30 days during the epidemic.

“Do not pursue fast speeds or set time limits. Just run freely and be happy.” This is Wang’s longstanding running motto. “Running has built up my body, and more importantly, my will,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll ever stop. I’ll probably just keep running until I can’t.”

Wang is not the only one who stays active on the road. The whole of Xi’an city is on the move. With growing health awareness and the promotion of the Fitness-for-All initiative, sports activities such as the city wall night run, popular fitness campaigns and fitness skills contests have mushroomed all year round. Locals take part in a variety of sports and games, ranging from traditional martial arts, chess and cards, to emerging e-sports and street basketball. People’s passion for a healthier life has sparked the vitality radiating from the whole city.

The Xi’an City Wall International Marathon

National fitness activities abound in Xi’an to enrich people’s lives, while large-scale professional competitions gain global attention. The Xi’an City Wall International Marathon, which has been held for 25 years, is the only marathon in the world where the course runs along an entire ancient city wall, drawing runners from around the world with its unique sense of history and culture.

The city wall marathon has launched new initiatives such as obtaining the world’s first block chain competition certificate, creating original theme songs, holding an opening ceremony and carnival activities. Passing through 18 gates and getting to know the history of 13 dynasties, one can get the “most Chinese-style” running experience here.

Runners participating in the Xi’an International Marathon pass the 600-plus-year-old Bell Tower/ Xi’an Daily

Xi’an can also offer the “most transcending” running experience. The Xi’an Yiango International Marathon began in 2017. In 2019, the contest drew 30,000 athletes from 30 countries and regions around the world. Running through many ancient buildings such as the Bell Tower and Drum Tower, the Ming Dynasty City Wall, the Dayan Pagoda and the Daming Palace, they experienced the unique feeling of shuttling back and forth between ancient and modern times while running across Xi’an.

Besides marathons, Xi’an, committed to building itself into a well-known sports city, has leveraged its Silk Road history and culture to invite global players to take part in various sports and games. The success of a series of Silk Road theme events such as Go, boxing, wrestling, fencing and taekwondo has added to the global appeal of the ancient city. Xi’an, the ancient Chinese capital, once again impressed the world with its hosting of the Asian Wrestling Championship in 2019: “a grand gathering for exchanges and integration of ancient civilizations,” said Nenad Lalovic, president of the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles.

The 2019 Asian Wrestling Championship was held in Xi’an/Xi’an Daily

In 2021, the high-profile 14th National Games will be held in Shaanxi. Its capital city Xi’an will host the opening and closing ceremonies, and more than 20events. The whole city has been set ablaze with excitement and joy for this great sporting event. All kinds of stadiums and gymnasiums are being built, transportation networks are being further improved, and mass sports activities, large and small, are being held everywhere.

Liu Huana, a former Chinese women’s national team soccer player, advances through a group of young players during a friendly match to mark the upcoming National Games/Xinhua

Xi’an has leveraged the event to improve the quality of its sports infrastructure. As the main venue for the opening ceremony of the 14th National Games, the Xi’an Olympic Sports Center, with a stadium, a gymnasium and a swimming and diving hall, was completed in July 2020. The 60,000-seat stadium, 18,000-seat gymnasium and 4,000-seat swimming and diving hall make the sports center the largest of its kind in northwest China.

Inside of the Xi’an Olympic Sports Center/Xinhua

Moreover, the use of various intelligent technologies also boosts the venue’s appeal. The stadium of the Xi’an Olympic Sports Center has adopted advanced 5G technology to build a multi-function smart command platform. In addition, technology is also used to enable spectators to watch a certain position or a certain player via a set of VR (virtual reality) glasses.

Sport is a universal language shared around the globe; its unique appeal and ability to communicate allow Xi’an to present this newest addition to its culture to people everywhere. . The historic city is running on a road connecting it to the rest of the world. Go, Dynamic Xi’an!

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