Media coverage of China's preparation for the 2008 Olympic Games has focused almost entirely on the host city of Beijing. It's understandable: That is where the Bird's Nest and the Water Cube are, where the huge crowds will show up in August, where decisions are being made now about what athletes will eat and how venues will be kept safe.
Kunming's two major training complexes - Hongta Sports Center and Haigeng Training Base - have been a beehive of sports activity, and should only get busier as the Olympics draw near.
"We will be very busy between now and the Olympics," said Zhang Tianyou, general director at Haigeng National Training Center in Kunming.
We went out to Haigeng recently to have a look around. The trip gave us a glance at an important but little-known place in China's sports world, and resulted in a precious opportunity get on the pitch with the women's football team.
Haigeng National Training Center
Haigeng's setting on Dianchi Lake, past Kunming's award-winning Lakeview Golf Club and an abundance of spiffy new condominium developments, is quiet and clear-skied, and relatively isolated. As professional tennis player Yanina Wickmayer said after playing in a match at Haigeng in November, the location can be both good and bad for athletes.
"The facilities are nice, but it's out here in the middle of nowhere," Wickmayer said. "But that could be good if you're trying to really focus on your training for a little while."
Athletes, coaches and team managers stay onsite in the complex's many dormitories and hotel rooms.
Hongta Sports Center
If Haigeng calls to mind the China of 20 years ago, Hongta Sports Center is a gleaming US$58 million monument to China's future hopes. Just 10 minutes' drive from Haigeng, Hongta was built in 2000 by the Hongta cigarette company, a major economic driver for Yunnan province. While Haigeng is used almost exclusively by professional athletes, Hongta doubles as a sports club for the general public. The general public can use all of its extensive facilities and every weekend, it hosts amateur football matches.
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