Although China has long been associated with martial arts, sport in China today consists of a wide variety of competitive sports, both Western and traditionally Chinese. The country has its own national quadrennial multi-sport event similar to the Olympic Games, the National Games of the People’s Republic of China.
Because of its relative simplicity, inexpensive equipment, and accessibility to venues, badminton is a very established and popular sport in China. Many Chinese badminton players have gained international success and fame, especially the many Gold medalists at the BWF World Championships. It’s a popular recreational sport, and amateur leagues exist across the country.
Lin Dan is the only player in badminton history to have won three consecutive titles at the World Championships (2006, 2007and 2009).
Yao Ming and other NBA success stories have helped to popularize basketball in China.
The game was introduced to China by American YMCA workers in 1896, just five years after the Canadian, Dr. James Naismith, had invented the game while working for the YMCA Training School in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Since the arrival of Yao Ming in the NBA in 2002, the game has grown considerably in the world’s most populated country. Some experts estimate as many as 300 million of China’s 1.3 billion population now play basketball. The first professional team in China was a team that started in Shenyang and was sponsored by the Anshan Steel Company. The Chinese Basketball Association was established in 1995 and in 2008 it expanded to 18 teams. The fact that USA is starting to notice Chinese players after Yao Ming’s success, and young CBA players such as Yi Jianlian and Sun Yue entering the NBA are examples of this change in trend. In 2008, Sun Yue became the latest Chinese to join the NBA by signing with the Los Angeles Lakers to a two year contract.
Football is the most popular spectator sport in the country and has been one of the most well supported sports in China ever since it was introduced in the 1900s. There is also written evidence that a game similar to football was first played in China around 50 BC. The current Chinese Football Association was founded in the People’s Republic of China after 1949. From 1994 to 2004, CFA established their first professional football league, which was called “Jia A”. The Chinese Super League is the premier football league in China, which changed from “jia A” in 2004, as the top of a league hierarchy that extends to four leagues. Since its foundation the Super League has been relatively unstable, and has struggled to maintain popularity.
At the international level, Chinese football has enjoyed little success despite the amount of support it receives from fans. Although the national team qualified for the 2002 World Cup, they failed to score a single goal and lost 3 group matches. Conversely, the women’s national team has finished second at both the World Championships and the Olympic Games. Despite the Chinese women team’s success at international competitions, however, women’s football in China does not receive nearly as much attention as their counterparts in Canada and the United States, therefore China’s good trend in women’s football may well come to an end in the near future. In 1990, China hosted the first women’s World Cup in Guangzhou, and in 2004, hosted AFC Asian Cup.
Football has always been among the more popular amateur team sports for recreation in China, although in recent years has been surpassed by basketball. High schools often have football facilities, some of which are rented on weekends to local amateur teams to organize matches. It is still the most popular sport to watch on television, with large international tournaments such as the World Cup and the European Championships, as well as major European leagues receiving widespread coverage.
Ping pong (乒乓) is the official name for the sport of table tennis in China. Apart from the national representative team, the table tennis community in China continues to produce many world-class players, and this depth of skill allows the country to continue dominating recent world titles after a short break during the 1990s. The overwhelming dominance of China in the sport has triggered a series of rules changes in the International Table Tennis Federation and as part of the Olympics. Ma Long is currently one of the highest-ranked Chinese table tennis players, and the highest-ranked player in the world. Deng Yaping is regarded by many as one of the greatest table tennis players of all time. The sport played an important role in China’s international relations; in April 1972, the US table tennis team were invited to visit China, an event later called “Ping Pong Diplomacy”. Table tennis is the biggest amateur recreational sport in China today, with an estimated 300 million players.
Tennis is a growing recreational sport in China, although access to tennis courts can be limited in densely populated urban areas. Recently Chinese tennis players, especially women, have seen success internationally both at the amateur level and professionally. Li Na is the first player from China andAsia to win a Grand Slam title. International tennis tournaments receive wide coverage on Chinese sporting channels.
In July 2001, Beijing finally succeeded in its bid to bring the 2008 Olympic Games. The Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG), established at the end of 2001, set the themes for the 2008 Games as “Green Olympics”, “High-tech Olympics” and “Humanistic Olympics”. Seven venues, including the National Stadium and the National Swimming Center have ushered in a new period of contemporary architecture for Beijing. The centerpiece of the 2008 Games was “the bird’s nest” National Stadium. With a capacity of 91,000 spectators, the stadium hosted the opening and closing ceremonies as well as track-and-field events.
Since 1949, China has participated in eight Summer Olympics and nine Winter Olympics, winning 385 medals at the Summer Olympics and 44 medals at the Winter Olympics. At the Los Angeles, Barcelona and Atlanta Olympics, China came fourth in the gold medals table, second at the Athens Olympics and first at the Beijing Olympics.