Tianjin's viral diving grandpas call it quits after safety concerns
Published: Sep 07, 2023 10:36 PM
Tianjin diving uncles and grandpas attract massive visitors. Photo: VCG

Tianjin diving uncles and grandpas attract massive visitors. Photo: VCG

After going viral on social media for nearly a month, a grandpas' self-organized diving team in Tianjin announced on Wednesday that they would halt their open-air diving on the Haihe River due to safety concerns. 

The notice was not surprising. After these grandpas' diving show became a super popular "scenery" in North China's Tianjin Municipality, the bridge where they performed attracted attention from across the country every day.

Besides professional divers who came to "exchange skills" with the grandpas, many online celebrities who are amateurs also joined the fun hitching a ride on the fame of this scene. 

The local Blue Sky Rescue Team had rescued 14 divers in just two days, of which seven became unconscious due to improper diving posture, five were drowning, and two had suffered from sudden strokes.

The announcement issued by the diving team grandpas on WeChat on Wednesday read: "As there were too many people diving, some of them did not prepare and train well and there were hidden dangers which increased the difficulty of rescue workers."

The Tianjin government also issued a notice later on Wednesday, stating that the lighting facility on the Shizilin Bridge over the Haihe River, which the elderly people had used as a diving platform, posed serious safety risks. 

The notice explained that the facility had loose components, corroded supports, and potential electric shocks. The government also announced that it had begun repairing the facility on the same day.

In the video circulated online early on Tuesday, the members of the once-popular folk diving team had "transformed" into volunteers, clearing the crowds who were still waiting on both sides of the bridge. 

Liang Shuang, a local Tianjin resident, told the Global Times that she had never approached that Shizilin Bridge after it became popular. 

"Those grandpas have been diving there spontaneously for many years. But this river is a place where ships pass by, which can be dangerous if there are too many people gathering." 

Experts pointed out that diving from a high place can reach tens of kilometers per hour at the moment of entering the water, which will cause a violent impact. Since the bridge surface of Shizilin Bridge is about 7 meters above the water surface, the safety risk can surely not be underestimated. 

"Overall the diving grandpas brought positive energy and happiness to people and popularity to Tianjin. But they also don't want to cause trouble to public. I hope their hobbies will not be affected by social media," said Liang.

The Shizilin Bridge diving team was originally composed of local swimming enthusiasts in Tianjin. 

The members told the local media that they swam in the Haihe River when they were young, and later tried diving when they became good at swimming. 

"We have an average age of over 60 years and we have been diving for more than 30 years. Diving also makes us healthy and happy," said the announcement.

The popularity of the diving Tianjin grandpas was unexpected for many people, but from the reactions of the audience on social media and many tourists who came from afar, many people were more infected by the optimism and positive attitude toward life shown by this phenomenon. 

The most widely circulated video on social media is nothing more than a famous quote from a diving grandpa before descending: "live for one minute, be happy for 60 seconds," which was constantly echoed by people on and under the bridge.