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Traditional Ethnic Sports     China and the Olympic Games     Popular Sports     Competitive Sports


Introduction : Since the founding of the PRC in 1949, China’s physical culture and sports have entered a new historical era. Chinese athletes won 1,298 world championships fom March 1959, when Rong Guotuan captured the first world championship for China at the 25th World Table Tennis Championships held in Germany, to 1999. China, one of the strong countries in physical culture in Asia, is well on its way to becoming a strong country in this respect internationally.

Traditional Ethnic Sport

Traditional sports are an important part of China’s sports activities, as well as a precious cultural heritage. Many of the traditional sports activities are not only good for health but also have high artistic value, and rich recreational and educational functions. Since the founding of New China, the government has attached great importance to the development of the traditional sports of national minorities, amounting to about 1,000 kinds, such as Mongolian wrestling, horsemanship and archery; kicking the shuttlecock and tug-of-war of the Hui; Tibetan yak racing; the Miao people’s swinging and dragon-boat racing; the Zhuang people’s throwing balls made of colored silk; Korean swinging and see-sawing; Manchu skating; walking on stilts of the Dong people; whipping tops of the Yao people; kite-flying of the Gaoshan; girl chasing of the Kirgiz; and sepak takraw of the Blang. Dragon boat racing, flying kites, yangge dancing, weiqi, qigong and taijiquan are traditional sports popular among both Han people and people of national minorities.

The dragon is the symbol of the Chinese nation. Boats are made in the shape of dragons by Chinese people of va-rious ethnic groups. Dragon-boat contests are popular in southern areas with many rivers and lakes.

Kites were invented in ancient China, the earliest man-made aircraft in the world. Kites made in Beijing, Tianjin, Weifang in Shandong Province and Nantong in Jiangsu Province are unique in their styles and famous all over the world. On April 1 every year, the Kite Festival is held in Weifang. Kite lovers from all over the world come here to share their enthusiasm for kites and strengthen ties of friendship.

Yangge is a kind of folk dance accompanied by music with strongly accented rhythms. It is popular in many areas of north China. Nowadays, it is a keep-fit activity. It is especially popular among middle-aged and elderly women.

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China and Olympic Games

Before 1949, China participated in the Olympic Games in 1932, 1936 and 1948, but failed to win any medals. After 1949, the former All-China Sports Association was reorganized to become the All-China Federation of Sports (Chinese Olympic Committee) to promote the Olympic games and the ideals they embody within the boundaries of China. The present chairman of the committee is Wu Shaozu.

On October 25, 1979, the Executive Committee of the International Olympic Committee held a meeting in Nagoya, Japan at which China resumed its legitimate membership on the International Olympic Committee.

He Zhenliang was elected a member of the International Olympic Committee in 1981, a member of the Executive Committee of the International Olympic Committee in 1985 and vice-chairman of the International Olympic Committee in 1989. These events showed that cooperation between China and the International Olympic Committee had entered a new stage.

In 1984, a Chinese sports delegation composed of 353 members participated in the 23rd Olympic Games, held in Los Angeles. Chinese athletes won 15 gold , 8 silver and 9 bronze medals in the 16 events they participated in. It was the first time for China to win gold medals in the Olympic Games, and the country ranked fourth in the number of gold medals. At the 25th and 26th Olympic Games, Chinese athletes won 16 gold medals each time, ranking the fourth.

Great efforts have been made by the Chinese government to promote international sports exchanges. At present, some 30,000 Chinese participate in more than 2,000 international competitions and exchanges each year. At the same time, China has successfully held the 11th Asian Games, 3rd Asian Winter Games, 1st East Asian Games, 6th Far East and South Pacific Games for the Disabled and other international sports competitions. Besides, China has provided active support to the member countries of the International Olympic Committee. More than 50 stadiums and gymnasiums have been built by China for more than 30 countries and regions. In 1999, China applied to the International Olympic Committee to hold the 2008 Olympic Games.

In February 2000, the Beijing Commission for Bidding for the 2008 Olympic Games held its second plenary session in the Chinese capital. The session decided on the emblem and slogan for the commission. The emblem was jointly created by leading artists Chen Shaohua, Han Meilin and Jin Daiqiang, and the slogan is “New Beijing, Great Olympics.”

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Popular Sports

China’s popular sports have developed rapidly in the 50 years since the founding of the People’s Republic. During the early period of New China, people just did aerobic exercises to radio music during break times, and took part in the spring and autumn sports meets held each year. As society progressed and the economy developed, recreational sports started to permeate all levels of society. Today, about 300 million Chinese take part in sports activities regularly. In 1951, the All-China Federation of Sports popularized the first set of exercises to radiomusic, and later on exercises for adults, young people and children were worked out. In1954, the Chinese government issued a notice stipulating that workers and staff of government offices and other organizations have a ten-minute break in the mornings and afternoons to do exercises or engage in other sports. In the same years the state also worked out a sports system to increase labor and defense capabilities, and it was carried out throughout the country. It was changed into the Athletic Fitness Standard for young people in the 1960s and then into State Athletic Fitness Standard in the 1970s. In the past 50 years, about one billion people have met the state standard.

In more than 20 years since the reform and opening to the outside world started, sports activities have been rich in variety, in the wake of the development of the national economy and improvement of the general standard of living. More and more people consider regular sports activities to be part of their daily lives in both rural and urban areas.

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Competitive Sports

Before 1949, China had participated in only three Olympic Games and failed to win a gold medal. But in more than 30 years after 1949, Chinese athletes won 30 world championships. From 1978 to 1999, Chinese athletes won 1,205 championships in the Olympic Games, World Championships and World Cups, and broke 800 world records.

Wu Shude won the first gold medal for China, in an international competition-in the World Weightlifting Championship held in Greece in 1979. In the same year, gymnast Ma Yanhong became the first Chinese world gymnastics champion. Li Ning won six gold medals in the Sixth Gymnastics World Cup Championships in 1982. The Chinese team won for the first time the team championship title after a heated contest between the Chinese and Soviet teams in the 22nd World Gymnastics Championships held in 1983. New gymnastic movements were developed constantly in China, some commemorating their inventors, such as the Yuejiu Somersault, Mo Somersault, Yang Po Jump, and Luo Li Eagle Swing. In 1981, all the seven titles were captured by Chinese table tennis players at the 36th World Table Tennis Championships, a record in the history of the sport. And in the same year, the Chinese women’s team carried off the title after beating the Japanese team in the 3rd

Women’s Volleyball World Cup Championships-another first. Shooter Xu Haifeng won China’s first Olympic gold medal, at the 23rd Olympic Games on July 28, 1984. Chinese divers took three championships at the 2nd World Cup Diving Championships in 1981. Then Chinese divers carried off 10 championships from the 5th to 7th World Swimming Championships and won nine gold medals from the 23rd to 26th Olympic Games. The Chinese diving team has become one of the world’s leading diving teams since the Barcelona Olympic Games.

China became a formal member of the International Badminton Federation only in 1981. Since then, Chinese badminton teams have won the Thomas Cup four times, the Uber Cup six times and the Sudirman Trophy three times.

In 1988, Yang Wenyi broke the 50-meter freestyle world record. She was the first Chinese athlete recognized as breaking a record by the International Swimming Federation. The Chinese swimming team won five gold medals in the 25th and 26th Olympic Games and 12 gold medals in the 7th World Swimming Championships, held in 1994, coming first.

The Chinese team won 60 percent of the gold medals at the 11th Asian Games held in Beijing in 1990, revealing the fact that China had become a major sporting nation.

The world-famous Chinese athletes Wang Junxia , Qu Yunxia and four others broke the women’s 10,000-m, 3,000-m and 1,500-m records 11 times in 1993, a historic breakthrough in China’s track and field events.

In 1994, Chinese athletes captured 79 championships in 11 events. Twenty-six athletes set 40 world records on 72 occasions. Meanwhile, China’s professional soccer players made gains, starting in 1994, which aroused the enthusiasm of both players and the fans. The deepening of the structural reform in physical culture has involved not only soccer but other athletic events as well.

Great achievements were made by China in sports in 1998, when Chinese athletes captured 83 world championships in 15 events, including 28 world championships in 6 events in the Olympic Games. Thirty athletes set 31 world records on 68 occasions.

Chinese athletes have won altogether 1,298 world championships since the founding of New China in 1949, and have created or broken 933 world records.

In 1999, Chinese athletes won 92 championships in 18 events in world competitions, including table tennis, badminton, weightlifting, diving, gymnastics, shooting and short-track speed skating. Sixteen Chinese athletes broke 22 world records in weightlifting, shooting and fin swimming on 50 occasions.

The year 1993 witnessed the most conspicuous achievements made by Chinese athletes, who won 103 world championships and broke world records in 124 events.

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  Information provided by China National Tourism Administration.


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