Welcome to island of Pingtan, the venue of the inaugural U18 Softball Asia Cup 2023 championship starting on Tuesday, which is not only a tourist destination, but a marvel of bridges and tunnels.
What would strike the softball players from the seven of the eight countries competing – Philippines, South Korea, Hong Kong, Japan, Chinese Taipei, India, Singapore – when they set foot on the island of Pingtan – located on the southeast coast of Fujian – is the world’s longest cross-sea road-rail bridge – the 16.34 km bridge that connects Pingtan Island in Fujian with four nearby islets.
The upper level of the bridge, opened on Oct 1, 2020, is a two-way six-lane freeway with a designed speed of 100 km/h, while the lower level, opened on December, is a two-line railway with a designed speed of 200 km/h connecting Pingtan Island (the fifth largest island in China) to the mainland.
The whole line is 88.43km long, with 71 bridges (40.01km long) and 16 tunnels (28.7km long). It has six stations – Fuzhou, Fuzhou South, Changle, Changle East, Changle South and Pingtan.
Yes, even by road from Fuzhou, one has to pass at least 5 tunnels through the mountains and hilly terrain, and the longest tunnel being 5km.
It is said that the people of Pingtan are specialists in tunnel and bridge building, that 80 percent of tunnels in China, have been build by companies and people from Pingtan. They are also much sought after around the world.
Pingtan, although may sound like a remote backward island, is also the destination architectural studies by students and tunnels builders from worldwide.
The Pingtan Strait had previously been something of a forbidden zone for bridge construction, so this project represents a historic breakthrough in terms of location, length, span and construction technology of the combined highway-railway cross-sea bridge.
Pingtan located off the eastern coast of Fujian Province, it is under the administration of Fuzhou, the capital city of Fujian Province. Pingtan is adjacent to the Taiwan Strait in the east and Haitan Strait in the west, near Fuqing City and Putian.
Dubbed as the “County of Islands”, Pingtan consists of 126 islands, whose sea area is much larger than the land area, with a 400 km long coastline, offering tip-top romantic coastal views, for example the Longfengtou Beach, with crystal clear water, which is also one of the largest natural beaches in China.
Comprising of so many islands, Pingtan is also known as “Maldives” of China, and it is little surprise that it chooses sport tourism as mode of promoting itself to the world.
Chinese Softball Association (CSA), who are based in Beijing, decided to host the U18 Softball Asia Cup 2023 championship in Pingtan, because of the full support by the Fuzhou Council through its Tourism Department.
The tournament undertaken by the Tourism Department have an apt tagline for the tournament displayed around the venue – Pingtan Baseball/Softball Stadium – reading “Welcome to Pingtan International Tourist Destination”.
The venue of international standard with a capacity of 5,000, which was built in 2014, has undergone many upgrades, including floodlights installed at the main stadium recently.
There is also a practice pitch adjacent to the stadium and the preparations for the tournament is as good as it can be and good to host a world class event.
Their rooms for athletes, technical officials, media, the ground preparation and overlay in and around the stadium, is as good to host the Asian Games, which will be hosted in Hangzhou next month.
Chinese Softball Association (CSA) secretary-general, Jimmy Zheng and Softball Pingtan president, Li Bifeng, were on ground at the Stadium to personally supervise that everything was in top condition for the competition on Tuesday.
The teams started to arrive this evening and the team managers meeting will be held tomorrow evening, chaired by Softball Asia president Datuk Low Beng Choo.
The eight team are divided into two Groups – (Group A) host China, Philippines, South Korea, Hong Kong, and in Group B Japan, Chinese Taipei, India, Singapore.
China as host, naturally want to do well and have targeted a top two finish.
“Japan are favourites to emerge champions, but we will try our level best to give the a fight. But we hope to at worst finish second. We are not under estimating the other teams, but as host and having spent a lot of money to host this tournament, it is only logically that we aim for the highest.”
The tournament besides the prestigious Asia Cup at stake, will also serve as the World Cup qualifier for the top three teams.
With so much at stake, indeed a keen competition expected in the six-day competition which ends on Sunday.