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September 11, 2010

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Playing squash in a transparent cube

Yangpu District is becoming a venue for a variety of sports. The China Open squash tournament opens Monday in Wujiaochang and Australian rules football will be played next month in Jiangwan Stadium. Fei Lai reports.

More than 50 internationally ranked squash players will compete in the 2010 China Squash Open in a transparent court in Wujiaochang's glitzy egg-shaped commercial complex.

The tournament in Yangpu District opens Monday and runs through Saturday.

A special transparent squash court will be set up in the "big colorful egg" structure that wraps around the Middle Ring Road in the new Wujiaochang commercial area.

The Wujiaochang development integrates businesses, entertainment, cultural centers and residential developments. A number of universities are nearby, so the squash tournament is expected to draw many students as spectators.

The squash venue can seat 300 spectators and passersby can view the game through the transparent walls.

"It is a trend to combine sports with city scenery, especially in Shanghai, an internationalized city," said Chen Wei, director of the Sports Bureau of Yangpu District.

"As the 'colorful egg' is a landmark in the district's new commercial area, this is where tourists and residents find entertainment and leisure."

The athletes will first compete at the Shanghai University of Sport and only the top four women and top four men will compete in the transparent squash court.

In the runup to the Asian Games in November in Guangzhou City of South China's Guangdong Province, the China Squash Open is considered as warm up for Chinese athletes.

Squash, a British game with a history of more than 170 years, is relatively new to China. The China Squash Association was established in 1999 and keen to popularize the game.

The China Squash Open has been held in Shanghai for the past five years.

Zhang Haijiong from the Shanghai Squash Club was among the first group of players and witnessed the growth of the game.

"Back in 1997 when I started playing, squash courts could only be found in the gyms of high-end hotels and there were no more than 20 in the city," he said.

Today there are around 200 courts.

In squash, city residents find an effective fitness workout and an interesting and safe sport.

Squash is easy for Chinese to pick up because its movements are similar to those of badminton, said Wang Tao, an official from the ball games division of the state General Administration of Sport.

"Squash is a game of fast speed, high entertainment and huge demand on mental and physical coordination," he said. "Most of the time, it's a challenge to stamina. For office workers who spend most of their time in front of computers, it's a good way to strengthen body and spirit."

"Squash is a young and fashionable game," said Bao Zhenghan, general manager of Bailian Youyicheng Shopping Mall, the the squash tournament's sponsor.

"Its characteristics are a good match with Wujiaochang's position as a robust commercial center that is accessible to young people from nearby universities," he added.

He said it is the company's duty to support nationwide fitness by promoting sports such as squash.

Wujiaochang is becoming a venue for a variety of games.

In May it hosted the X Games, an annual event featuring extreme sports that attracted 30,000 spectators.

In October, Australian rules football will be played at Jiangwan Stadium as a salute to the World Expo in Shanghai that ends on October 31.

"The development of an open and knowledge-based Yangpu District requires inclusion of sports, a platform for different people and cultures to connect," said director Chen of the district sports bureau.

He said Yangpu Stadium will be reconstructed at a cost of 198 million yuan (US$29 million) and will include three or four courts for squash.


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