Flanked by rows of leafy trees and other Singapore-inspired park greenery, more than 1,000 runners from the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei area took part yesterday in the inaugural Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City (TEC) Eco Run. The event capped a weekend of festivities celebrating the 10th anniversary of the bilateral project.
Young families formed a sea of orange jerseys on the 5km route, while serious runners in black tops completed a 10km circuit next to the picturesque Jing Lake in the cool morning.
Once a wastewater pond that collected industrial effluent from nearby factories, the lake is today a recreational area symbolic of the larger green transformation wrought by TEC, Singapore's second joint project with China started in 2008 as a model for sustainable development for other Chinese cities. The first joint project was Suzhou Industrial Park.
"Residents can look forward not only to more running events, but water sports as well, making use of TEC's many beautiful water bodies," said Mr Wang Xuewei, social bureau director of TEC's Administrative Committee.
Officials said the TEC has come a long way from a decade ago, when it was a collection of salt pans and barren fields.
The 30 sq km township welcomed its first residents in 2012, with the population swelling to 30,000 in 2015. Today, it has more than 70,000 residents.
"We enjoy living in Tianjin Eco-City because of the emphasis on greenery, with parks like these within walking distance of our home," said finance executive Guo Xiaodong, 39, echoing the view of many of the young families who live in TEC. "There are also a number of brand-name schools here, so I don't have to worry about my son's education."
Among the schools that have been drawn to start satellites in TEC are a number of well-known kindergartens, as well as Nankai High School, an elite prep school that counts first Chinese premier Zhou Enlai among its alumni.
And TEC's prospects are only looking brighter. TEC administrative committee chairman Shan Zefeng said that two days after Tianjin launched a talent attraction programme on May 16 that relaxes resident permit requirements for skilled individuals, there have been about 100 successful applications, with at least 1,000 more in the pipeline. "We are welcoming the 10th anniversary of TEC with a bountiful harvest of good news," said Mr Shan.
Yesterday, keen-eyed runners could also spot a multi-storey structure being built in the distance, a new library adjoining a Sino-Singapore friendship park modelled after Singapore's Gardens by the Bay that will both be completed later this year.
Early last week, Tianjin hosted the second World Intelligence Conference, which brought together experts from fields such as artificial intelligence and smart homes. Members of the public were treated to an exhibition that showcased the latest in Chinese and international drone hardware, and could try their hands at basic drone flying.
On Saturday evening, a flotilla of 100 unmanned vehicles took to the skies like technicolour fireflies, forming words such as "Eco-City welcomes you" to loud cheers from the crowd.
Correction note: The article has been edited for accuracy.