By Han Chunyao, Jia Fengfeng, People's Daily
The opening ceremony of the 21st Tour of Qinghai Lake international cycling race was held in Xining, northwest China's Qinghai province on July 26.
The eight-day event is joined by 147 cyclists from 21 Chinese teams, covering eight stages and 1,488 kilometers.
This year marks the 20th year since the cycling event was held for the first time in Qinghai. Over the past two decades, the Tour of Qinghai Lake has overcome a series of difficulties, such as poor infrastructure, tight budget and lack of professional personnel.
At first, the Tour of Qinghai Lake was just a solo event. In 2011, it planned a cycling route crossing multiple provinces in China and in 2019, the professional group competition of the event was moved to Hungary. So far, it has attracted a total of nearly 400 teams from over 20 countries and regions.
In the past two decades, Qinghai has made constant progress in the development of high-performance sports under the influence of the Tour of Qinghai Lake, and a green, low-carbon and healthy sports philosophy has taken shape among local residents.
The Tour of Qinghai Lake not only demonstrates Qinghai's openness and image, but also drives local economic and social development. It has set an example for many other regions in China that shows how sports events and regional development reinforce each other.
Hosting sports events relies on well-developed infrastructure. A complete road network is vital for hosting cycling events. During the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020), Qinghai accelerated the construction of its road network, connecting all of its county-level administrative regions with class-2 highways or above. As of the end of 2021, the total mileage of the province's road network had reached 86,200 kilometers, 64,500 kilometers of which were built in rural areas.
Thanks to the expanding road network, the Tour of Qinghai Lake has been introduced to more and more rural roads, which makes the event more challenging and spectacular, expands the influence and coverage of the event, and demonstrates the province's achievements in rural vitalization.
Besides, the improving road infrastructure and environment have also enhanced the sense of fulfillment of residents.
Hosting sports events enriches people's material and cultural lives. Sports events are an important carrier promoting national fitness, as well as a vital channel that stimulates the consumption of sports equipment.
The cycling market is a large single market globally. The Tour of Qinghai Lake, with its expanding influence, is activating sports enthusiasts' passion for consumption and enriching their cultural lives. A sports park in Xining is equipped with thousands of public bicycles, and the dashing riders on the bike lanes across the city make a beautiful scene.
Besides, the route of the Tour of Qinghai Lake crosses a number of natural and cultural tourist attractions in Qinghai, presenting to the world the province's splendid nature, history, culture and ecological progress.
More integrated development models should be conducted. Sports events can not only create social and economic benefits, but also drive local tourism and the catering industry.
Since 2014, Longyangxia township, Hainan Tibetan autonomous prefecture, has built and reconstructed various cultural and tourism facilities as a place that's always crossed by the route of the Tour of Qinghai Lake. It has gradually developed itself into a featured township known for its fishing ponds, road trip camps and bike lanes.
The regions along the event's route have actively explored integrated development models centering on the sports industry and combining the culture, tourism and ecological sectors, so as to better meet people's demands, activate the motivations for cross-industry development, and promote regional economic growth.
According to statistics, the 2021 Tour of Qinghai Lake generated economic benefits of nearly 1.88 billion yuan ($279 million). The event’s hosts received 818 million yuan, an 8.3 percent increase year on year.
As China accelerates the steps to build itself into a leading sporting nation and advances its national fitness program, it is seeing more and more fertile ground for nurturing high-quality regional sports events. The country will also build a broader platform for high-quality integrated development of local sports, culture and tourism industries.