Feature: China makes real difference in sport over past decade

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, April 29, 2022
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By sportswriter He Leijing

NANJING, April 29 (Xinhua) -- From a summer Olympic powerhouse to a winter sports country, China has made great strides in sports over the past decade, thanks to its continued efforts in pushing forward a nationwide fitness campaign for balanced development of mass sports and elite sports.

Decked out in a miniature helmet, Liu Zhihao slips on the ice and picks himself up with a bashful smile, as the nine-year-old boy zooms around a packed indoor rink on ice skates in east China's Jiangsu Province.

"Skating is so much fun," said Liu who has signed up for a skating course. He is among the millions of Chinese children who tuned in to watch the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics during their winter vacation.

Winter sports were once deemed a foreign and unaffordable pastime in China, but the unparalleled passion generated from the Winter Olympics looms large, as more and more Chinese are heading to ice rinks and snow slopes to sample the pleasure of winter sports and build up physical fitness.

As of last October, over 346 million people have participated in winter sports or related leisure activities since China's successful bid to host the Games in 2015, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.


In 2018, 92 percent of Chinese students aged between 14 and 19 passed the physical fitness test, and the proportion of those rated good or excellent increased substantially, said a recent white paper released by the State Council Information Office of China.

Such progress can be attributed to the improvements that China has made to its national fitness infrastructure over the past decade.

According to official statistics, by the end of 2021, sports venues in China totaled 3.41 billion square meters in area, with a per capita area of 2.41 square meters, which was a marked increase from the 2011 per capita figure of 1.05 square meters.

Driven by the winter sports craze, explosive development of ski and skating infrastructure has been seen in China. As of early 2021, the country has a total of 654 standard ice rinks, an increase of 317 percent over 2015.

And various sports parks and facilities have been popping up across China, especially after the country proposed in 2014 to promote "15-minute fitness circles" in urban communities, offering fitness facilities that residents can access within a walking distance of 15 minutes.

In 2019, an action plan was issued for the country's Healthy China initiative, which advises people to engage in 30 minutes of fitness activities three times or more a week.

So even when staying at home amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many ordinary citizens have taken to at-home workouts through numerous online exercise programs.


The mass participation of sports activities has laid a solid foundation for China's success in competitive sports, which has in turn encouraged more to engage in sports.

At the Tokyo Olympics, China won 38 gold, 32 silver and 18 bronze medals, its second best performance in an overseas summer Games. And at Beijing 2022, the host nation notched nine golds and 15 overall, both record highs at a single Winter Olympics.

"The role of technology in competitive sports is becoming more prominent," said Li Zhiquan, an official at the General Administration of Sports of China.

For instance, wind tunnels developed by state space giant China Aerospace Science and Technology were used in training Chinese athletes for the 2022 Winter Olympics. Tests of the athletes' performances in the tunnel can provide data for the optimization of sportswear and equipment to reduce drag, and help athletes to find the best postures and team formations.

But medals are not all that matters for the Chinese. They applaud tear-jerking and heart-filled moments and regard athletes who keep challenging the limits with persistence and passion as heroes, no matter whether they win medals or miss out the podium.

Sprinter Su Bingtian made history at Tokyo 2020 as the first Chinese athlete to qualify for the men's 100-meter final. Finishing sixth in the final, he has become a sports icon in China.

Ski prodigies like Gu Ailing and Su Yiming have caused a huge sensation at Beijing 2022 with their stunning performances, and they have inspired millions of people of younger generations to exceed themselves as the sky is the limit.


China's middle-income group has increased from over 100 million in 2010 to more than 400 million in 2019, and well-off Chinese people now have more time and money to spend on sports, which has created a bonanza for global sports brands.

Domestic athletic apparel giant Anta Sports reported its revenue of 49.3 billion yuan (about 7.46 billion U.S. dollars) in 2021, a 38.9 percent year-on-year increase. According to global market research firm Euromonitor, Anta Sports held 16.2 percent market share of China's sports shoes and apparel in 2021, surpassing Adidas's 14.8 percent and edging closer to Nike's 25.2 percent.

The total output of China's sports industry in 2020 hit 2.74 trillion yuan. Data from the corporate information provider Tianyancha shows that China saw an increase of more than 1,000 ice and snow sports-related enterprises in 2021. And according to a national development plan for the ice and snow equipment industry, annual equipment sales are predicted to exceed 20 billion yuan by 2022.

Trips related to ice and snow tourism soared from 170 million in the 2016-17 tourism season to 254 million in the 2020-21 period, and are forecast to reach 305 million during the 2021-22 season, according to a report issued by the China Tourism Academy.

"The sports industry is closely tied with economic development," said Daisy Wang, Decathlon China vice president, who noted that Chinese consumers are increasingly pursuing healthy lifestyles and interested in niche activities such as skiing and camping. "We are playing an active role in it."

Encouraged by packages of governmental policies, Chinese manufacturers of winter sports equipment have intensified efforts to promote research and development in recent years. In 2019, the number of newly-adopted homemade snowmaking machines at domestic ski resorts rose to 467, compared with just 50 in 2015, according to a white paper on China's skiing industry.

The ice and snow equipment, such as domestically-developed snow groomers and snowboard waxing vehicles, have marked the country's technological advances and mirrored the efforts of its sports equipment industry to break away from a dependence on imports, industry insiders said. Enditem

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