Beijing International Club Co. Ltd. > About > Highlights> Case studies>It's Hard to Say Goodbye: Those “Tennis” Stories

It's Hard to Say Goodbye: Those “Tennis” Stories

At Jianguomen Bridge northeast corner, there is Beijing International Club which is very famous; the tennis court in the club is also very famous. Then, this is another important engineering after Chinese Top Ten Buildings, and is one of the landmarks in the city of Beijing in those years. Since its standing there in 1973, this first open indoor tennis court for business in China has witnessed too much history. Recently, because this tennis court is to be relocated and closed, many ball friends come here to play the last game and take pictures to commemorate reluctantly.\

Origin and Development

From 1982, Ji Rong worked at the tennis court of International Club. About the events relevant to this building before 1982, he knew them from his father Ji Enyi, an outstanding player in the first batch of tennis players in New China, who was a committee member of Chinese Tennis Association established in 1956 and the vice chairman of Beijing Tennis Association established in 1957.

“In 1930, my father, at the age of three, came here as a caddy, the tennis court was called ‘Beijing Ball Room’ then, its real translated name was ‘Gentlemen’s Club’, in Dongjiaominxiang. It was renamed as Beijing International Club only after being taken over by Beijing Diplomatic Personnel Service Head Office’.” JI Rong said. Now elder Mr. JI has passed away, but just as his becoming a coach from a caddy, Ji Enyi was with low level of literacy at first, through self-learning and accumulation in the work, he later was not only fluent in English, but also was responsible for compiling Chinese tennis history before the founding of the PRC. Ji Rong has a manuscript written by elder Mr. JI, in which many rare historical moments were recorded in detail. “In 1957, National tennis team of Ceylon(now is Sri Lanka) came to China, this was also the first foreign ball team communicating with Chinese tennis team since the founding of New China, and thecompetition site was located at the tennis court of Beijing International Club.” JI Rong introduced. Premier Zhou and He Long, the Chairman of the Sports Commission at that time, not only watched the game on site, but also met the athletes and coaches. From then, tennis teams from many countries came to China in an endless stream. Beiijing International Club became a very important place for diplomatic activities.

In 1969, along with the development of Chinese diplomacy, new Beijing International Club selected location on Jianguomenwai Street until now.

First in China

Actually in the planning in 1969, senior leaders had great differences on building indoor swimming pool or tennis court. Wan li, Beijing Construction Committee Director at that time, asked the instructions of Premier Zhou on this problem specially. Under the support and help of Premier Zhou, building tennis court was at last determined.

The roof of International Club used building pattern of “flat top bi-directional steel pipe net rack with spherical nodes” which made the Club the first building with net rack structure in New China’s architectural history. To cover the indoor area of 1600m2, steel rack structure should be set up 17.5m high with about 64t steel.

“The whole steel rack was welded at a large space north of this stadium, then hoisted it here wholly with 4 tower cranes.” Ji Rong said, “Building and communicating equipments were less developed in that era, in order not to hang askew, the construction team dug a hole one person deep on the ground under the center of steel rack, then dug a same hole under the center of tennis stadium, then let two persons stand in the holes separately, the two holes were to prevent steel rack from hitting persons once the rack fell, the two persons directed hoisting with whistles.”

At that time, in China only National Sports Commission-owned Beijing Gymnasium had indoor tennis stadium, but that was the training place for national team and was closed to the public. So the tennis court of International Club became the first Chinese indoor tennis court opened for business. Then International Club planned 10 outdoor sites and 2 indoor sites, but at last built 5 outdoor sites and 2 indoor sites, and when the court was relocated and closed on Sep.27 this year, International Club only had 2 indoor sites, and the two sites would appear in the new building.



Interesting Stories

Today in the Tennis Court, the two plastic sites which lie there silently have already been replaced for two times. There is a story about it.

The Sites of the Tennis Court which were re-built in 1969 were all made of lime. “When lime sites were built, hard gravel soil were put on the bottom as the base, then put pulverized lime over it which had been pulled from the lime plant in Fangshan with several big liberation trucks.” JI Rong introduced. After several trucks of pulverized lime poured on, it shall be plowed flat and sprayed with water by high-pressure water jet. “One site needed 6-8 persons, front persons sprayed water, persons behind mixed the lime until the lime was porridge-like, then flat could be achieved.” JI Rong said, “Then put straw on it, pressed it with rollers pulled by persons, sprinkled red clay powder after its drying, so the sites were not afraid of rain.”

But such sites were not smooth enough, because the bouncing tracks on the sites became irregular after being over-used, therefore the sites needed to be renovated once a year. In 1980, BIC determined to replace the site ground. “My father contacted many foreign manufactures, at last selected needle-punched nylon carpets produced in Japan.” At that time, the total price of those carpets was RMB100, 000 and large-scale freight was also needed to transport the carpets from Japan to Beijing. Besides, Japan’s labor costs installing this kind of carpets were also near RMB100, 000.

To save money, JI Enyi communicated with Pan American World Airways who rent offices in Beijing International Club at that time. They agreed with free transportation, but special transportation was impossible, the carpets can be transported one by one roll in batches only when there was empty warehouse in plane. “At that time, my father often went to customs warehouse together with his workmates to carry back a roll of carpet one by one.” JI Rong said, “With about 3 months, all carpets had been carried back.”

Ji Enyi and his workmates laid the carpets all by themselves; at last they built tennis sites of international standard within one month. “There were not good tools then, and any slight error will cause a seam after carpets are laid, and balls would bounce on it irregularly.” JI Rong said, “My father decided to measure the sites with steel wires. They clean the sites, brush glue and then stick carpets. If the place not flat, they would hit it with a mallet.” After the sites were laid, many professionals of domestic tennis industry and envoys came to see the sites, and praised with surprise: “It’s unbelievable that we can see such a good tennis court in China.” Japanese manufacturers also came after hearing that, their representative asked doubtfully: “Did you lay these sites all by yourself?” After they heard details, the representative admired sincerely: “It’s great!” The sites of needle-punched nylon had been used for 17 years, and for quite a long time, the national tennis team always came here to do adaptive training before gaming abroad.



Australian Prime Minister Hawke made his first visit to China in 1984, WAN li, Vice Premier at that time, held a tennis friendly match with Mr. Hawke at International Club tennis court, which created a new form of carrying out diplomatic activities through friendly match on tennis courts. Newly elected American vice president George H.W. Bush made his first visit to China in 1986 and he also held a friendly match at the tennis court with Wan Li. George H.W. Bush came to China for three times after that, and came to International Club tennis stadium each time to see old friends such as Ji Enyi and so on when playing tennis.

From the 1980s to 1990s, many ambassadors, international important persons and famous persons came here to play tennis, such as American ambassador Lord and his wife, Russian ambassador Igor Rogachev, Japanese ambassador Anami Koreshige and so on. Later, many of those envoys left their posts for home, but when they went back to China again, just like George H.W, they also went to International Club tennis court and talked about the old days with the coach and old friends.

Since the late 1990s, more and more ordinary persons came here to study tennis and playing tennis, International Club tennis court again became the frontier to disseminate and popularize tennis. Chen Yu was one of numerous old customers; he had played tennis here for more than 10 years. Introduced by friends, CHEN Yu first came to International Club tennis court to play tennis in 1998. From then on, the tennis court became a place where CHEN Yu must go every week. Because of this, tennis stadium’s relocation and closing down brought him a lot of emotions. That day after the last game, he sent a WeChat to describe those feelings which was said to be too sad by many friends. He said, “In my heart, this site is better than others, I have adapted to it and played here for 16 years regardless of the weather. I feel comfortable here and I met so many ball friends here. It’s sad to be without it in the next period of time.”

“Endure for some time, a new tennis court with better facilities and higher quality will appear after 3 years.” Ji Rong said.

Beijing International Club tennis court is the first indoor tennis court in China. Although its equipments and facilities are in the leading position at that time, after 41 years, it cannot meet the demands of modern people, especially that it is not suitable for holding international tennis communicating activities. Rebuilding it embodies Club staff’s concept of keeping pace with the times.

(Pictures in this paper are provided by JI Rong.)


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