| GEO World|
| China marks Olympic Games first anniversary|
| Updated at: 1818 PST, Saturday, August 08, 2009|
BEIJING: China marked the first anniversary of the Beijing Olympics on Saturday with its first national sports day that saw up to 34,000 people gather for the world's largest martial arts exercise.
"We have established August 8 as National Fitness Day to fully embody... the government's loving concern for the life and prosperity of the people," Sports Minister Liu Peng said in an address outside the iconic Bird's Nest national stadium.
"This is a vivid reflection of the legacy that the Beijing Olympics has left for the people, the society and our system."
Liu's remarks came as nearly 34,000 people dressed in white silk performed "taiqiquan," or martial arts shadow boxing, in the drizzling rain outside the stadium early Saturday morning.
Ranging in age from seven to 65, the shadow boxers hope to set a Guinness world record for the largest martial arts exercise, organisers said.
A year after the Beijing Olympics, reminders of the Games' physical impact are visible throughout the capital, but so are signs of the many ways in which the event could not change China.
China has a collection of state-of-the-art venues and can also point to the new Olympic subway lines that now transport millions of Beijingers to work.
But there is also the choking smog that has returned to the city, and the dissidents jailed in the past year for speaking out against a government that had promised "tremendous" human rights improvements in bidding for the Games.
"The successful hosting of the Olympic Games is the result of China's social and economic development," Cui Dalin, vice minister of the General Administration of Sports told a foreign news agency.
"Without a strong nation we would not have had a successful Beijing Olympics."
Saturday night over 60,000 fans are expected to watch International Milan face rival Lazio in the first sporting event to be held in the Bird's Nest since the paralympics ended in September.
The stadium, made of a lattice of cement and steel, has largely served as a tourist attraction since the Games ended, prompting criticism that many costly Olympic venues are sitting idle and not being used for sporting events.