Monday, November 12, 2001, updated at 10:17(GMT+8)

Chinese President Declares Open of 9th National Games

Chinese President Jiang Zemin declared open the Ninth National Games at the Guangdong Olympic Stadium Sunday evening in Guangzhou.
The games, China's first major sporting event in the new century, added joy and excitement to the country.


China's National Games Open in Guangzhou in Vigor, Glamour
Chinese President Jiang Zemin declared open the 15-day Ninth National Games in a dynamic and colorful ceremony in the brand-new Guangdong Olympic Stadium here Sunday evening.

The games, China's first major sporting event in the new century, added joy and excitement to the country, which in recent months has witnessed such events as Beijing's successful Olympic bid for hosting the 2008 Games, the success of the 21st World University Games in the Chinese capital and the long-awaited qualification by China's national soccer team for the 2002 World Cup finals.

Among those present at the opening ceremony were Li Lanqing, Vice-premier of the State Council, Yuan Weimin, Minister of the State General Administration of Sports and President of the National Games Organizing Committee, and Jacques Rogge from Belgium, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), some other IOC members including former president of the International Federation of Football Associations (FIFA) Joao Havelange and heads of some foreign sports delegations invited for the occasion.

The Chinese president met with the guests prior to the opening ceremony.

A Prelude to 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing

When addressing a capacity crowd in the modern 80,000-seat stadium built for the quadrennial games, Yuan said that the national games opened in the new century and at a time when China, with impressive economic achievements in recent years, had usheredin a new stage in sports development.

Yuan, who is also President of the Chinese Olympic Committee, called for efforts to turn these games a demonstration of true sportsmanship and moral of Chinese people and athletes as well as a prelude to an expectedly successful 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

China's former Olympic or national games champions formed an impressive nine-member leading group to guide the march-in of participating delegations. They were weightlifter Chen Jingkai, high jumper Zheng Fengrong, swimmer Yang Wenyi, volleyballer Sun Jinfang badminton player Tang Xianhu, gymnast Li Ning, table tennis player Lu Lin, shooter Zhang Shan and Lee Lai Shan, an Olympic champion and former world champion windsurfer from the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR).

President Jiang lit the games premier torch at a grand ceremony held outside the Great Hall of the People in downtown Beijing two months ago. The torches carried by representatives from all participating delegations were then lit at the Beijing ceremony to start a 52-day nationwide torch relay. A record participation of some 20 million people took part in the historic relay.

China's Olympic champions shooter Xu Haifeng, judoka Zhuang Xiaoyan, gymnast Li Xiaoshuang and weightlifter Chen Xiaomin ran a relayed honor lap inside the Olympic Stadium for the torch relay. The games flame on a specially-designed cauldron was lit, with a signal sent by a laser ignitor lit by Chen, the final torch runner.

A dynamic and vigorous mass artistic and sports performance followed featured such sectors as team gymnastic show, traditional Chinese lion dance as well pop and folk song and dance. Over 20,000 performers mainly consisted of school students and soldiers displayed their outburst of joy when the new century had been ushered in.

Some 20,000 Participants and 45 Delegations

Participating in the 15-day games are some 20,000 athletes, coaches and officials of 45 delegations from various provinces, municipalities, autonomous regions, the People's Liberation Army, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps and sports associations of such trades as railways, coal mining, forestry, finance and banking and aviation, and representatives of media organizations from home and abroad.

On the games program are the finals of 30 sports and 345 events,with a total of 358 gold medals on offer. Except for traditional Chinese martial arts Wushu, all are Olympic sports.

Athletes from the Macao SAR, which was established in December of 1999, are taking part in their first ever national games while those from the Hong Kong SAR are competing for the second time.

In a much welcomed first appearance by Hong Kong athletes at the national games in Shanghai four years ago, Wong Kam Po, 24, won Hong Kong's first ever national games title in a road cycling event.

Athletes from the Hong Kong and Macao SARs had been allowed to skip the preliminaries and compete in most of the finals of the national games.

Finals of some sports and events of the games including those of the winter sports had been held prior to the games' official opening, to suit for international competitions.

And this year's games venues spread all over the province, with15 cities hosting competitions, for the first time in games history. The coastal city of Shantou, 480 kilometers east of Guangzhou, hosts table tennis and diving events.

Olympic medal winners at the 1998 Nagano Winter Games and last year's summer Games in Sydney shall be counted for in this year's national games medal table for the athletes' respective native delegations.


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