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Asiad: Swifter, Higher, Stronger... and Funnier
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In Doha, Qatar, the Chinese delegation is chasing the 150-gold record set in Busan in 2002 as the Asian Games are going to conclude on Saturday. This goal seems likely as China already snatched its 147th gold after He Chong won the Men's 3m Springboard title yesterday.

TV programs and newspapers have motivated public interest in the scoring tally as the routine reporting of China's gold haul has gradually outshone the fun people could have enjoyed from the games. Regrettably, a large audience is still unfamiliar with many unique sports of the Asian Games.

Unlike the summer Olympics which strictly cap the number of official sports at 28, the Doha Asian Games allow 39 sports including all Olympic events minus modern pentathlon and 12 non-Olympic sports such as Sepaktakraw, Kabaddi and Wushu. What's more, the Doha Asiad boasts 11,000 participating athletes, 500 more than the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. In terms of the numbers of disciplines and competitors, the Asian Games are bigger than the Summer Olympics and all other major sporting events, such as the Pan American Sports Games, All Africa Games and British Empire and Commonwealth Games.

While International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge is desperately trying to reduce the cost and complexity of the Olympics, the Asian Games have expanded rapidly. The number of sports on offer has soared from 6 in the first Asiad in New Delhi to exceed 30 in the twelfth in Hiroshima, Japan. With two-thirds of the world's population living in the continent, Asia has a great variety of cultures and lifestyles. For a long period of time, Thailand ruled Sepaktakraw and India dominated Kabaddi while Japan lead in terms of karate with wushu the domain of China. Most of the non-Olympic sports listed in the Asian Games enjoy huge numbers of fans. The events became popular mass sports since they focus on flexibility which fits Asian players. Besides, every host country wants to earmark its own signature sport in Asiad, according to Sheikh Saoud Al Thani, secretary general of the Qatar Olympic Committee.

In the mean time, the events' governing body has realized that the inductions of too many non-Olympic sports might bring an overload in terms of ticket selling, TV broadcasting as well as venues maintenance. Therefore the Olympic Council of Asia is planning to move some non-Olympic sports from the Asiad to the biennial Asian Indoor Games.

For China, the happy thing is that according to Liu Peng, president of the State General Administration of Sport, about 40 percent of Chinese gold medals come from non-Olympic sports. When primary school teachers, college students and other amateurs step onto the podium, one can witness the progress made in mass fitness in China.

Non-Olympic Sports in Doha Asian Games:

The Chinese martial art. Literally translated, "wu" is military, "shu" is art. Wushu therefore means the art of fighting, or martial arts. Composed of two disciplines, either taolu (routines) or sanshou (combat), its performances include bare hands, sword and broadsword as short apparatus, and spear and cudgel as long apparatus.

A board game for two players, played with 16 pieces of six kinds each that are moved according to individual rules, with the objective of checkmating the opposing king.

Cue Sports:
The generic term "billiards" covers a range of indoor games played on a table with a stick, known as a cue, employed to strike the cue ball around the table. Cue sports include: billiards, carom, pool and snooker, all of which are featured in the 15th Asian Games.

Bowling is an indoor game in which players score points by rolling a ball along a flat surface to knock down objects called pins. The best known form of bowling is probably the American game of ten-pin bowling. Players propel or roll a ball by hand down a wooden lane in an attempt to knock down 10 pins arranged in a triangular pattern.

Golf is an outdoor sport that requires mental concentration and great athletic skill and control. Players use a club to propel a small ball, both through the air and along the ground, into a series of 18 holes laid out in a course in as few strokes as possible. Points are scored according to the number of strokes it takes to complete the course. Unlike other games, the object of golf is to record the lowest score possible rather than the highest.

Bodybuilding is the process of developing muscle fibers through the combination of weight training, increased caloric intake, and rest. Those engaging in this activity are referred to as bodybuilders. As a sport, called competitive bodybuilding, bodybuilders display their physiques to a panel of judges, who assign points based on their aesthetic appearance.

Sepaktakraw (Kick Volleyball) dates back to the 15th century when it was played by indigenous Malays. It is a fast growing and popular sport in Asia. Called Takraw for short, it is a cross between soccer and volleyball, played on a badminton doubles sized court. Similar games include jianzi, footvolley, bossaball, sipa and footbag net.

Rugby is distinguished from North American football in that the ball can only be passed backwards, not forward. The aim of the game is to obtain as many points as possible by carrying, passing, kicking and grounding the ball. Seven-a-side rugby (Rugby Sevens) is played at the 15th Asian Games, a variation played with seven instead of the regulation 15 players.

Squash is a racquet sport played on an enclosed four-walled court. The ball can be bounced off any wall within the marked lines although every shot must come off the front wall before hitting the ground. The object of the game is to win points by ensuring that your opponent is unable to return your shot before the ball bounces twice.

Karate, literally meaning "way of the empty hand" in Japanese, is a martial art focusing on striking techniques such as punching, kicking, knee and elbow strikes using open hand techniques. It originated as a method of self-defense which relied on the effective use of the unarmed body, and comprised elaborate techniques of blocking or thwarting an attack and counter-attacking.

Kabaddi is sometimes referred to as the "game of the masses" due to its popularity in Asia and its simple format. Originated in South Asia, it is played with two teams of 12 players (seven on court, and five in reserve). The game consists of two halves of 20 minutes each. Two teams compete, alternating between defense and offence. The purpose of the game is to reach the highest score by touching or capturing the opposing team's players, while continuously chanting "kabaddi-kabaddi". Points are scored by raiding the opponents' court and touching as many defense players as possible without getting caught.


(China.org.cn by Li Xiao, December 14, 2006)

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