When the city of Qingdao held the Olympic sailing event in 2008, it showed the world a spectacular side of itself, and it now wants to maintain that Olympic city image by becoming the Capital of Sailing, the mayor has said.
The Extreme Sailing Series 2011. Act 2. Qingdao. China. Credit: Lloyd Images
In fact, for the past three years, Qingdao has made every effort to keep the Olympic spirit alive by mobilizing everyone to build that 'sailing city' image, Mayor Xia Geng told China Daily in a recent interview. Qingdao now has the world's first Olympic sailing city museum. And, its Olympic Sailing Centre is the country's only seaside tourism-leisure demonstration district and has been designated as a relic protection unit.
'By using the Olympic influence and venues we've popularized the sport of sailing and have become a sailing popularization and demonstration city for the young,' Xia went on to explain.
Qingdao now has 28 professional sailing clubs and 165 sailing schools and clubs for young people. More than 5,000 teenagers have taken part in the city's sailing camps and more than 2,000 of them have become licensed sailors. In addition, more than 100,000 local people have had a chance to sail and the local government has said it will continue to promote the sport. 'We're looking for 300,000 people to get involved in the sport by 2014,' Xia noted.
After the Games, in 2009, the city established an annual international sailing week to promote its own local brand of sailing. That same year, it played host to a world-famous sailing event, the Volvo Global Ocean Race, a real first for Qingdao. It followed that with the world's largest amateur sailing event, the Clipper Global Sailing Race, its third time to host the event.
It also held its first International sailing week, with a deliberate doff of the hat to Germany's Kiel Week competition, which is held annually. More than 200 sailing celebrities turned up for the competition.
Then, in 2010, on the occasion of the Second Qingdao International Sailing Week, it held an Olympic Sailing City Mayors & International Sailing Summit where the Qingdao Declaration on the International Sailing Sport was signed.
Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), called the forum a 'commendable initiative'.
This past May, the city has again showed the world its impressive side when it completed the Qingdao leg of the 2011 Extreme Sailing Series.
The municipal government established an Olympic Sailing City Development Association as the first national management centre for the sport of sailing. It has taken special steps to get sailing and related businesses included in Qingdao's 12th five-year plan (2010 - 2015). 'By branding itself as a capital of sailing, the city has improved its reputation and influence around the world, and is becoming better known,' the mayor said.
This year's Sailing Week is scheduled for August 20 to September 4, at the Olympic Sailing Centre, with the theme 'Inheriting the Olympic Heritage, Developing a Marine Economy, and Building a Sailing City'. Lin Zhiwei, the chairwoman of the Qingdao Sailing Association, said they will focus on international Olympic Sailing exchanges and international matches, with emphasis on the sailing population and culture, sailing industry, and sailing for youth.
There are three major sailing competitions on tap: the Mayors Cup Qingdao International Sailing Rally, the Lushang Cup Qingdao International Sailing Match, and the Qingdao International OP class summer camp and International OP Class Boat Championship. Two more national sailing competitions that will take place at the same time are the 2011 China Sailing Elite Race, and the 2011 China Funboard Championship.
Hundreds of cultural works on sailing, including posters, pictures, and brochures from some national Olympic museums, national sailing associations, and sailing cities with important sailing events have sent works related to sailing to Qingdao for the sailing week.
Goran Petersson, president of the International Sailing Federation (ISAF), and other prominent sailing figures have helped selected top 10 of the cultural works and works from Kiel Sailing Week have won the first place.
'All the works sent here are exhibited in Qingdao Olympic Sailing Museum during the sailing week,' Lin said. 'We intend to have celebrity events for our sailing weeks because they attract a lot of attention,' Lin explained.
This year's sailing week is expected to have international sailing celebrities and a celebrity talk on international cooperation, cultural diversity, economic development, and science and technology, she added.
As if that were not enough, Qingdao is also working on plans for a Qingdao Cruise and Yachting Economy to give policy support for a yachting industrial park. 'Qingdao's international sailing events give us many business opportunities and we've had a chance to put many of our design and product ideas into effect,' said Hou Jie, general manager of the Qingdao Nauticstar Marine Co Ltd, in an earlier interview with China Daily.
By 2015 the cruise and yacht industry is expected to have more than 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion) in added value output. The city already has 50-some yacht and motorboat manufacturers, turning out more than 10,000 sailboats and yachts annually, with approximately 90 percent of them sold overseas. The largest manufacturer, Qingdao Nauticstar, became the supplier of working boats and VIP reception boats for the 29th Olympic Games in 2008.