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Reporter’s Diary: Xi’an marathon, using sport as a bridge between cultures

By Curtis Stone (People's Daily Online)    09:52, April 24, 2018

It’s time to put on your running shoes again. Marathon season in China is in high gear.

With the running boom in China, there is no shortage of ways to race around China. But one of the more unique ways is to run in the Xi’an City Wall International Marathon, which this year was held on Saturday, April 21.

As a key link in China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative -- an initiative that seeks to connect China and large parts the world through trade and development, Xi’an is the perfect location for an event that is not only aimed at promoting the sport of marathon but, on a deeper level, introducing China to the world and the world to China.

This year, thousands of runners from across the nation and the world descended on the beautiful city of Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi Province in northwest China and one of four ancient capital cities in the world, to participate in this unique marathon event.

First organized in 1993, the Xi’an marathon has attracted more than 60,000 participants from nearly 60 countries and regions throughout the world.

This year, a total of 5,000 runners out of 30,000 applicants were selected to take part in the Xi’an City Wall International Marathon, which featured a half marathon, a 5 km mini-marathon, and a 13.7 km marathon, the latter of which is equal to the circumference of the ancient city wall.

For those who still can’t imagine how many runners descended on the ancient city wall for the marathon, this photo may help.

The 5,000 lucky runners got the amazing opportunity to put their minds and bodies to the test on the Xi’an City Wall, which is one of the oldest, largest, and best preserved city walls in China, making the Xi’an marathon a truly unique and unforgettable experience.

As you can see, many people packed the city wall for the Xi’an International City Wall Marathon.

The takeaway from this event is that the sport of marathon is more than just a race to the finish line. In Xi’an, for example, the marathon was used as a way to build bridges between cultures. The marathon provided an opportunity for runners and visitors to learn more about Xi’an, China, and for Chinese to learn more about the unique histories and cultures of other countries and regions.

You can say that the marathon is an effective form of “soft power.” During an interview with the People’s Daily Overseas Social Media team on the day before the marathon for instance, Emmanuel Foulon from Brussels, Belgium, described the Xi’an marathon as a “diplomatic mission.”

“It is a really good sign for my city to create this kind of link and to use the sport to make the link between citizens from different cities from different countries, because sport could really make this kind of link possible,” Foulon said. “That is likely to create friendship between two cities,” he added.

Abderrahime Bouramdane, a Moroccan marathon athlete from the city of Fez, and another runner from Brussels, Sébastien Remy, also saw the sport of marathon as a way to build bridges.

On the day of the marathon, the People’s Daily Overseas Social Media team located Foulon and Remy, the two Belgium runners, for an interview that would be broadcast live in Xi’an and on our YouTube channel before the start of the race at 8:30 am at Yongming Gate (South Gate) of the city wall.

Chatting with Foulon before the interview, it did not take long for the discussion to return to the “mission.” For Foulon, as well as for many of the other runners that day, the Xi’an marathon was more than just a competition. It was a way to build friendships between peoples, cities, and countries. In his words, the marathon was more like a “diplomatic mission.”

It is interesting that a city wall constructed during the Ming Dynasty more than 600 years ago to protect the city of Xi’an is now being used as a way to bring people to the city. The Xi’an City Wall may have been built for defense, but it is now being used as a way to build bridges between China and the world.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Wu Chengliang, Bianji)

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