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July 12, 2013

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National Games budget cut amid austerity

SPORTING powerhouse China has slashed the budget for its National Games by 78 percent amid dramatically slowing economic growth and a government campaign to rein in public spending.

Spending on the 12th Games, to be held on August 31-September 12 in the northeastern province of Liaoning, will be kept to a maximum of 800 million yuan (US$130 million), the deputy director of the organizing committee, He Min, was quoted as saying yesterday. That's down from the original figure of 3.6 billion yuan.

"We hope to create a new manner of organizing big events in a thrifty way," He was quoted as saying at a news conference on Wednesday.

Held every four years, the National Games are China's premier sporting event and a crucial testing ground for future Olympic champions. With events broadcast nationwide and national leaders in attendance, host cities usually compete to outspend each other on elaborate ceremonies and glitzy venues.

Liaoning's decision to talk up its cost-cutting, therefore, represents a sharp shift in tone among officialdom, reflecting stark new economic realities.

In his comments, He said savings would come both from reducing the scale of the games and cutting back on ceremony.

The number of venues was cut from 129 to 117, with only 10 being newly constructed, while teams competing will fall from 46 to 38, eliminating about 1,500 competitors, He said. The last Games, in 2009, featured 10,991 athletes. The number of sports will also be cut by two to 31.

Spending on the opening and closing ceremonies is being slashed by 90 percent to just 9 million yuan, He said, adding that the torch for the Games will be lit at the seaside of Lvshun, Dalian City, on July 28.

And the torch relay will start from the Olympic Stadium in Shenyang on August 10 and pass through only 14 cities.

After 20 days, the torch will be back at the stadium for the Games' opening ceremony.


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