Athletes safe, says sports chief of Sichuan Province

2008-05-21 03:09:17 GMT       2008-05-21 11:09:17 (Beijing Time)       Xinhua English

CHENGDU, Southwest China, May 21 (Xinhua) -- None of Sichuan-based athletes was killed or injured in a deadly earthquake which hit the southwestern Chinese province on May 12, Sichuan sports chief said here on Wednesday.

The provincial teams of various sports were evacuated immediately after the 8.0-magnitude quake rocked China, said Sichuan sports director Zhu Ling.

"All of the provincial-level athletes were away from the worst-hit areas and they made quick escape from the buildings when the disaster happened," Zhu said.

"Most athletes lived in low-rise buildings and they were taking a nap or preparing for the afternoon session of training at the moment of the earthquake."

According to Zhu, the sports infrastructure in Wenchuan, the epicenter of China's most deadly quake in decades, Beichuan and Qingchuan has been seriously damaged.

The newly-built gymnasium, swimming pool and stadium in the Aba Normal Institute in Wenchuan were wiped out and a 3,000-seat gymnasium in Jiangyou city, which was jolted by a 6.0-magnitude aftershock on Sunday, had been devastated by the May 12 quake.

The Sichuan Sports Bureau closed all the sports venues and facilities on the day of the earthquake, said Zhu.

Sichuan has churned out a dozen of Olympic champions including Chen Longcan (table tennis), Gao Min (diving), Zhang Shan (shooting) and Du Lizhang (shooting) and Tang Lin (judo).

None of the Chinese national teams were in the quake-hit areas on May 12, but the Asian soccer boss and his Chinese counterpart were, said Zhu.

Asian Football Confederation president Hohamed Bin Hammam and Chinese soccer boss Xie Yalong were attending a soccer forum in a Chengdu hotel when the quake hit.

Hamman and Xie looked composed when reporters fled. They were among the last group of the forum attendees evacuated to the Chengdu Sports Center.

The death toll from last week's devastating earthquake was 40,075 nationwide as of 6 p.m. on Tuesday, according to the Information Office of the State Council. Another 247,645 people were injured and 32,361 people were missing as of Tuesday at noon.

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