Badminton is one of China’s most popular sports and one of the few sports I can actually play without wanting to throw the bat/club/ball into the bushes. So it was wonderful to find that there are open-air badminton courts freely available for public use at the Tianhe Sports Centre, on Tianhe Road right by the Citic Building, one of the city’s biggest landmarks. The sports centre itself is huge, featuring a football stadium and many other buildings and activities around the edge.
Getting to the sports centre is easy enough: it has its own metro line stop, with another on the other side, and a taxi from the Leide area costs around RMB 12 when the traffic is good.
On that point, it is best to go early to:
a) avoid the inevitably terrible traffic that blights Guangzhou
b) avoid playing in the blisteringly hot summer sunshine, there being little shade on the courts
c) beat the crowds of other players as it’s always busy.
The activities around the stadium attract a lot of local people of all ages. These include long strips of yellow and white painted gym equipment that is especially popular with the older and surprisingly supple generation. You will get a lot of fascinated stares and smiles if you join in with the public exercise. There are also rows of table tennis games, always busy. Tucked away under trees are communal games of cards and Mahjong, always popular for onlookers. Occasionally you find some older folks engaging in delightful China opera singing.
Many of the badminton crowd find my playing amusing, perhaps because of the lack of skill but also because of how loud me and friend become, grunting and complaining at every miss-hit. I’m a slightly fitter MJF, this is Guangzhou and that’s 303 words.
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