CHANGCHUN, May 17 (Xinhua) -- Thirty thousand runners will take part in the Changchun International Marathon this Sunday, one of a growing number of sporting events taking root in the capital city of China's Jilin province.
The Changchun Marathon includes six events: marathon, half marathon, 10km, 5km, a home run competition and a lovers run race. There will be 30,000 runners from 20 countries and competing together for the first edition of the competition.
The Chinese Athletics Association (CAA) held 328 marathon competitions in 2016 all around China. But CAA officials say Changchun has special significance.
"We are developing winter sports events as well as summer ones, because the city is beautiful during all four seasons," said Liu Haiyu, chief of the Changchun sports bureau.
Changchun started to hold winter and summer sports camps in 2013, training teenagers and children in various sports for free. Changchun students from primary schools and middle schools can also enjoy training in their spare time. The project is one example of how government-run public services can arouse sporting interest in the general populace.
As the first full year after Beijing was awarded the 2022 Winter Olympics, 2016 was marked by the rising popularity of winter sports in China. As part of this trend, Changchun aimed to motivate one million teenagers to enjoy the city's abundant skating rinks and ski resorts.
Changchun never held a marathon event downtown before, but it does boast rich experience in holding large-scale winter sporting events. Vasaloppet, the annual long distance cross-country skiing race launched in Sweden in 1922, held its 15th edition in Changchun this year. More than 5,000 professional skiers from over 30 countries and regions took part in this year's Visma Skiing Classics at the event here, up from 200 participants in 2003 when the ski marathon event was launched in China.
"Vasaloppet marked the rising popularity of winter sports in China in recent years, and we expect the Changchun marathon to further contribute to the development of mass sports," said Yin Hao, vice manager at the North company of Zhimei Sports Group, one of the Changchun marathon operators.