Extreme sports find new venue in Beijing

14:18, May 17, 2010      

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American skateboarding legend Tony Hawk and US Olympic gymnastics gold medalist Shawn Johnson were among the celebrities mobbed by legions of teenagers and young people at Saturday's grand opening of Woodward Beijing, a 425-acre extreme sports arena and educational facility in Daxing district.

"Woodward is one of the best organizations in the world when it comes to extreme sports," Hawk said.

"It's amazing they were able to set up a park like this in Beijing," he said.

Founded in 1970 largely as a gymnastics training institute, Woodward operates or cooperates on five camps in the US. For all the rising popularity of Western sports in China, Woodward's featured activities - including skateboarding, BMX biking and snowboarding - remain largely unknown to Chinese.

Woodward founder Gary Ream says he hopes more Chinese young people will be attracted to the extreme sports.

"The Chinese government approached us with the goal of getting more Chinese young people out from behind their computers and into a more active lifestyle," Ream said. "This isn't something that colleges are doing - it's really been pushed along organically by the passion of young people for these kinds of sports."

The opening ceremony included a press conference, ribbon cutting, skateboarding competitions and demonstrations including a showcase from Hawk that saw the 42-year-old skateboarding icon sail up a massive vertical half-pipe at heart-stopping speed.

"He's still the best skateboarder in the world," said Guan Mu, a Beijing-based skateboard blogger in attendance at Saturday's festivities.

"We've had a lot of famous Western skaters visit China before, but not Tony Hawk, until today."

Though the details of Woodward's summer camp schedule are still being sorted out, Woodward Beijing general manager Zhou Qiang said it will feature long-term sleep-away camps and weekend sessions for students aged 7 to 22 when it commences programming in June, with a one-time door fee for daily drop-in visitors who wish to use the facilities independently.

Source: Xinhua


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