The right running angle: Rectangular running track in China

Chinese officials painted a rectangular running track at a stadium as they rushed preparations for a visit by their superiors, state media reported yesterday.

Pictures posted online showed that while the running surface in the Heilongjiang stadium had the normal oval shape, but the white lines marking out each lane were angled at 90 degrees.

Internet users leaped on the revelation, AFP reported.

"Leaders, this is the newly developed right-angled running track," wrote one poster on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo, imitating the tone of a lower-ranking Chinese official reporting to his superior.

"We have become the first country in the world to have such tracks. I believe (Chinese athletes) will outperform other countries' (athletes) after scientific training on such a running track."

"Does the designer have a square brain?" wondered another Weibo user.


But it appears that the stadium itself has been impressively built, UK daily The Telegraph reported.

"It is difficult to turn and easy to fall," local resident Gong Xiaona told provincial television programme Newsnight. It quoted a stadium staffer as saying the previous track had become worn down by long use.

"The current tracks were laid in a rush to deal with the visit by some provincial leaders," he said. "We ourselves feel it's ugly. But who can change it if our bosses don't care?"

The television programme dispatched a correspondent to examine the track's unconventional curvatures and shed some light on what had gone wrong.

"I felt a bit strange at the turn," Mr Li Xiao'ang, the reporter, said, after attempting his first onscreen lap.

Mr Zhang Ying, a resident interviewed by Newsnight, speculated the corners might have been designed "to prevent people from crashing into each other during races".

"Is it for anti-collision?" he asked.

Stadium officials had another explanation. They claimed their original track had once featured curves but said its rubber surface had become severely worn down from overuse.

When senior Communist Party leaders recently announced plans for a last-minute visit to the stadium, a quick makeover suddenly became necessary.

Painting right angles was faster than painting curves, one official admitted.

"In order to get it ready for the leaders, we painted it like that," he confessed.

It is not unknown for local officials in China to come up with eccentric ideas to curry favour with their bosses or cope with inspections. A publicly-funded orphanage in Jieyang in the southern province of Guangdong had its facilities transformed into government offices and dormitories, according to previous state media reports.

When provincial authorities mounted an inspection last year, social welfare officials attempted to borrow orphans from a nearby temple.

This article was first published on July 30, 2014.
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