NEW LOOK: The transformed Longjiang Gymnasium (XU BEI)
First constructed in the 1990s, Longjiang Gymnasium in Nanjing's Gulou District has long been a popular place for sports. Many residents from nearby apartment complexes come to the gymnasium to play badminton every day. It has also become the chosen venue for local children learning to play badminton.
As an arena in this year's Youth Olympic Games, however, the newly revamped gym will be hosting wrestling and judo events. In order to be prepared for the Games, which take place on August 16-28, the gymnasium has completely transformed its lighting system, air conditioners and floors.
Yang Xiaoxin, a local who has been playing badminton with his friends at the gym since 2002, was impressed with the upgrade. "It feels much better to play after the floor change. We regular folks have reaped substantial benefits from the Games," Yang said.
The gym will reopen to the public shortly after the Games are finished. Repurposing already standing buildings is one of the basic measures taken by the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games Organizing Committee (NYOGOC) to cut expenses.
"The Nanjing Youth Olympics come amidst the country's call for frugality in hosting events and the International Olympic Committee's call to reduce the commercialization of sports events. We have upheld frugality as the basic principle guiding our preparations," Nanjing Mayor Miao Ruilin said on July 5.
The first Summer Youth Olympics, held in Singapore in 2010, cost a total of 2 billion yuan ($323.3 million). Though the NYOGOC has not published a specific budget for this year's Games, it has made clear that the total expenditure will be 10 percent less than that of the Singapore Games, or no more than 1.8 billion yuan ($291 million). Striking a balance between hosting an Olympic-level event on a limited budget and enabling citizens to benefit from local investments afterward are the central concerns of the organizing committee.
The continuously rising cost of hosting the Olympic Games has imposed huge financial burdens on countries for many years. Host cities often construct a large number of massive stadiums for the event. Billy Payne, President and CEO of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games Committee, famously said that following the passion and the fervor over the Olympic Games, which last about 17 days, people's lives in the host city continue on. They should not be put into debt for temporary glamour, nor should brand-new stadiums fall by the wayside.
The 35 stadiums used for this year's Youth Olympic Games were all transformed from existing buildings. For example, the city's International Expo Center in the Hexi New Town area was originally used for exhibitions. During the Youth Olympics, its two halls will host boxing, taekwondo and fencing competitions, along with the fencing portion of the modern pentathlon. All the seats and stands have been rented and set up for temporary use. When the Games are over, these installments will be removed and the stadium will return to its role as an exhibition center.