China's preparations for staging this September's FIFA Women's World Cup gained further momentum when the Local Organising Committee (LOC) held its eighth general meeting held on 9 March in Chengdu , one of the five FIFA Women's World Cup venues.
The meeting was the LOC's first after China's Lunar New Year and it was cited as a 'catalyst' to promote the women's game across the city.
"We see this meeting as a chance to speed up our work," Qin Wenlin, the head of the Sports Bureau in Chengdu, told FIFA.com. "It also marks the beginning of promoting the FIFA Women's World Cup among not only football fans, but all the people in the city."
The panda's cradle
As the capital of one of the country's most populous provinces, Sichuan, Chengdu's status is unique in China. One cannot speak of the city without mentioning its long history, picturesque landscapes, famous cuisine and topping all, is love of the 'living fossil' known as the panda.
The panda has become a symbol of the city, a fact highlighted on the 8 March, International Women's Day, when a large crowd of female football fans flocked to Chunxi Avenue in downtown Chengdu for a fan festival.
As well as interactive displays such as penalty shoot-out competitions and keepy-up displays, there was also a special appearance from a group of local schoolchildren dressed up as pandas.
In a backdrop featuring the FIFA Women's World Cup logo and the city's slogan of 'Our City, our World Cup,' the 'pandas' sent the audience into laughter through their amusing displays."
"The panda, long regarded as an animal symbolising the good nature of humankind, will act as an envoy to convey our good will to welcome the fans, players and FIFA officials from across the world during the World Cup," added Qin.
The people's tournament
Chengdu has vowed to show effort and enthusiasm to entertain their guests in September, to make them feel at home. Quin said that his team will do all they can to make this a 'World Cup for the people.'
"More events and activities will be staged in the central city over the next six months," continued Qin. "Chengdu is one of China's footballing cities and have no shortage of male supporters. But we hope to get more and more women interested in the sport."
A series of mini football games, exclusively for women, will take place from June until the beginning of the FIFA Women's World Cup on 10 September. Small-sized pieces of artificial turf will be laid in the city square close to Chengdu's World Cup stadium, so that those interested can play the sport against other citizens.
According to Qin, the goal of also generating the country's largest female footballing group is realistic. "Watching the World Cup from stands could be the chance of a life time and when they (the female supporters) realize the importance of this, they will love the game as well as they like the city's spicy food."
Hopes of a city
Despite the fact that Chengdu will only stage six group matches during the FIFA Women's World Cup, Qin believes that this will not affect the city's passion for football when the competition enters its knockout stages.
"The atmosphere in the city will not dimish," he said. "While the local supporters may not have the chance to watch China play in the stadium, every team playing in Chengdu will be supported as if they are playing at home.
"The people showed their passion and good-will to the foreign teams during the 2004 Asian Cup, when Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan had a pleasant time in Chengdu. We just hope that one of the teams starting out in Chengdu will reach the final in Shanghai."