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Beijing 2008 Wushu tournament kicks off
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Watch: Chinese martial arts on display

Wushu, also called martial arts, a non-Olympic but Chinese traditional sport, made a shinning appearance on Thursday in Beijing where the 29th Olympic Games is going on.

The four-day Beijing 2008 Wushu Tournament, which attracts 128 athletes from 43 countries and regions, kicked off at the Beijing Olympic Sports Center where some Olympic handball matches had been held.

It was the first time that a non-Olympic tournament was launched in a city which is hosting an Olympic Games.

"With the approval of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Beijing 2008 Wushu Tournament is co-sponsored by the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG), the International Wushu Federation (IWUF) and the Chinese Wushu Association," said Wang Xiaolin, the secretary-general of IWUF.

"It is the first time in the Olympic history for a tournament of a non-Olympic event to be held in an Olympic host city during the Games," Wang noted.

"The IOC approval shows its recognition and support to the sport event originated from China and its respect to the Chinese culture," Wang said.

"The holding of the tournament showcases the magnificence of the Wushu, and signifies 'the People's Olympics', one of the themes of the Beijing Olympic Games," he added.

As for the issue of the inclusion of Wushu in the Olympic Games, Wang admitted that there is still a long way to go.

There are a total of 15 gold medals up for grabs in the Beijing 2008 Wushu Tournament which features Taolu (set routines) and Sanshou Boxing (free combat).

Sun Jianming, head coach of the Japanese Wushu team, told Xinhua, "Wushu is more popular in Asia than in Europe and America. Statistics show that in Japan there are about a million people practising Wushu, the Taijiquan in particular."

"Many medical organizations in Japan encourage the people to practise Taijiquan for keeping healthy," said Sun, who went from China to Japan 22 years ago to be a Wushu tutor.

Japanese athlete Koki Nakata, 24, said, "I started to practise Wushu at the age of 16. The technique of Wushu is so amazing that I could not give it up in the past eight years."

"I am a fan of Jackie Chan, the world famous Wushu master and movie star," he added.

(Xinhua News Agency August 21, 2008)

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