China grows into hot spot for sports competition

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Photo taken on Sept. 8, 2017 shows the Olympic rings at the closing ceremony of the 13th Chinese National Games in north China's Tianjin Municipality. (Xinhua/Yue Yuewei)

As the Chinese version of the Olympic Games, the National Games are drawing to a close after a successful run, and the country continues to prove its expertise and display its enthusiasm for organizing sports events.

Some call the National Games a miniature version of the Olympics for its similar scale and program, but as a matter of fact the 13th edition of the 58-year-old tournament is even larger and offers a richer array of sports varieties.

The National Games opened its doors to amateur athletes for the first time in 30 years, drawing over 8,000 amateur finalists to compete in 19 popular events such as taichi, chess, roller skating, marathon and rock climbing. This is in addition to the over 10,000 professional athletes entering in the Olympic events.

Although the National Games concludes on Friday night, there will be more international events coming up: the 2018 Badminton World Championships, the 2019 Basketball World Cup, the 2022 Asian Games and Olympic Winter Games.

There are a few reasons why China becomes host to so many sports events.

With international federations needing a reliable organizer for their respective tournaments, China's willingness and capability to fund events, mobilize resources and coordinate relations perfectly meets their expectations.

For China's part, international sports events have been a window for the outside world to have a glance at the real China and offer the country an opportunity to elevate its national image and secure long-term and steady economic development at the same time.

China is striving to keep its economy on a course of steady development, and sports stands out as a promising engine to fuel the world's second largest economy.

A government guideline unveiled in late 2014 (one year after the 12th National Games in Shenyang, Liaoning) pushed for accelerating the development of the sports industry and boosting sports consumption. The reform prompted an immediate investment boom in the sports field, with the overall sports industry turnout rising from 0.64% to 0.8% in its proportion of the GDP in just one year.

This could partly explain why high-level international competitions, lying at the center of the global sports industry, are so welcomed in China.

Compared to the past days when many Chinese would like to sit on the couch and watch competitions, more Chinese people leading well-off lives are increasingly willing to pay for tickets and sports gear and taking part in sports both for recreation and health reasons.

Therefore, China now is not just an ideal host for top-notch international events, it is also attracting more events at a smaller scale.

One particular telling example of this is the marathon fever that has gripped the country: the number of marathon races held in China ballooned from 22 six years ago to an estimated 600 in 2017, attracting some 5 million participants.

Running, hiking and skiing have become popular among people of all ages while bodybuilding, square dancing and other sports are also on the rise. If all goes as expected, the country of 1.3 billion will have 435 million people regularly taking part in sport by 2020.

With such potential large audience and market, it is safe to say that China has become and will continue to be a hot spot for international sports events for many years to come.

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