While most ordinary Chinese are more concerned about Yao Ming's
injury and comeback than the state of their own fitness,
authorities are hoping to persuade more people to give exercise a
With the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games fast approaching, senior
officials of China's governing body of sport admit that there is a
misbalance between interest in sport and participation, a crucial
part of the Olympic spirit.
"Chinese people still lack awareness of how to get fit by
getting involved in different sports," said Feng Jianzhong, deputy
director of the State General Administration of Sport (SGAS).
"The media coverage is unbalanced. There are so many reports
about how Chinese athletes compete for gold medals, but not so much
exposure for community sports activities. The participation of all
the people is a significant part of preparing to host a successful
Olympic Games. We have to take the chance to show how Chinese
athletes have reached a global level, as well as show how
passionate ordinary people are about fitness."
Ten years ago, the government issued a document called "An
Outline of the National Fitness Program," which was a milestone in
the history of mass sports. Also 10 years ago the government
promulgated the Law on Physical Culture and Sports, which
consolidated and upgraded the legal status of the national fitness
By enhancing health awareness and providing convenient places to
exercise, it has helped people improve their fitness level.
Reports say that thanks in part to the program, China's average
life expectancy has risen to 71.8 years, and about 37 percent of
people regularly participate in sports activities. The country has
also invested heavily in building sports facilities.
The sports participation rate does not stack up well against
developed countries, where it can often reach 80 or 90 percent.
In the last year before the 2008 extravaganza officials are
urging local governments to organize activities to stir interest in
According to Liu Peng, Director of the SGAS, more than 60
national and international activities concerning fitness and
Olympic promotion will be launched around the country next
"By organizing different campaigns targeting people's health, we
will help improve their consciousness and ensure the promotion of
the Olympic spirit," said Liu.
"A People's Olympics is a core part of the Beijing Olympic
concept. We should make extra efforts to have more and more people
take part in the scheduled activities."
Early in 2006, China began to organize a series of campaigns
with a theme of "National Fitness and Move with the Olympics,"
which set a solid base for a further spread of the 2007
"We have done a lot of work to popularize community sports and
raise awareness in 2006. We are also trying to combine the Olympic
spirit with national fitness. In 2007, we will continue the concept
of the Olympics being closely linked to all activities."
Mass sports in China
Apart from the inspiration of the Olympics, emerging health
problems are also encouraging more people to exercise.
According to a national survey last September, more men are
obese and an increasing number of students have poor eyesight.
About one in 10 (9.3 percent) male adults between 20 and 59
suffer from obesity, up 22 percent from 2000 when the country
released its first National Physical Fitness Report.
In the 40-59 age group, the rate stands at 11.7 percent.
For male adults, 33.2 percent are overweight, up 1.3
In contrast, women in the same age bracket have seen little
change from 2000.
The obesity rate among students has also increased by at least 1
percent, while strength and stamina are on the decline, according
to the report.
The report also indicates that urban Chinese are more physically
fit than people in rural areas. Geographically speaking, residents
of Shanghai, Jiangsu, Shandong, Guangxi and Beijing have the
highest fitness levels, while those in Xinjiang, Guizhou, Qinghai
and Tibet have the lowest.
Authorities are acting to deal with the lack of sporting
facilities in rural areas.
The country aims to ensure each village has one cement-paved
basketball court equipped with a pair of standard hoops and two
outdoor ping pong tables.
The SGAS has promised to launch a number of important new
projects next year.
"We will put the priority on the implementation of major
projects like 'Billions of People Fitness Campaign,' 'National
Fitness Week,' 'Community Action,' and the 'Rural Residents'
Fitness Project,"' Liu said.
Apart from increasing investment in sports facilities, China
also plans to introduce some traditional sports to make 2007 more
These include a wide range of activities, deeply rooted in the
nation's culture, that encourage people to exercise to improve
Apart from the fun element, people can enjoy the same benefits
as other more demanding sports, officials said.
The list includes Taiqi, a Chinese martial art with a history
dating back thousands of years, roller-skating, dragon boat racing,
kicking shuttlecocks, tug-of-war and yangko dancing, a traditional
street activity in Northeast China
"Competitive sports like soccer and basketball are just a small
part of the series of activities. We have asked local associations
to organize different sports according to local culture and
tradition," said Liu.
"I hope all people can enjoy the fun of sport and have a healthy
(China Daily February 16, 2007)