National Fitness Program takes root in China

14:58, August 11, 2010      

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Gone are the days when Chinese fans would throw their TV sets out of the window after watching their beloved women's volleyball teams lose and their table tennis teams fail to defend a title at major international competitions.

It's not that they no longer love sports any more. It's that they are more mature and rational.

After all, China has fully demonstrated its sporting prowess in recent Olympics, finishing in the top three of the medal standings in Sydney (third) and Athens (second). It went to the top at the Beijing Games. China remains a poor country in swimming and athletics, but I think that won't last long as more and more Chinese are taking to sports for recreation and a way of keeping fit.

One big reason for that is the National Fitness Program, which China launched in 1995. Aimed to improve the health and physical condition of the population, the program encourages everyone to engage in at least one sport actively every day, learn at least two ways of keeping fit and have a health examination every year.

The Chinese government also pledged to create a sports and fitness service system for the public as part of the program. There are more than 850,000 gymnasiums and stadiums in China at present, most of them open to and widely used by the public.

Sunday saw the country celebrate the second anniversary of the Beijing Olympics and National Fitness Day. China's sports minister promised the government would build more sports facilities and train more fitness instructors, illustrating its growing interest in the health of the populace.

I believe China's sports officials would exchange Olympic medals for an overall upgrade in the public's health. I don't mean to say winning Olympic medals is not important - Olympic victories raise the people's morale and give them a sense of pride. They actually help China carry out the National Fitness Program by inspiring the public to take up sports and raise their awareness of doing exercise to keep fit.

I was glad to see several Chinese Olympic champions join the public to celebrate Fitness Day and give tips to sports lovers on Sunday. Olympic table tennis champion Kong Linghui said he would like to take part in national fitness promotions as often as possible. Kong and Olympic women's taekwondo gold medalist Luo Wei enthralled crowds in Beijing, and China's most successful diver Guo Jingjing made a rare public appearance while leading a fun run in Zhengzhou, Henan province.

It is only right for the state-fostered sporting champions to guide the public in keeping fit through sports. They are the best instructors and inspirations.

The training facilities for China's champion athletes used to be mysteries to the public. That is no longer the case as more venues, previously reserved for national team athletes, become open to the public. Stadiums and gymnasiums in the National Sports Training Center, which has churned out hundreds of Chinese world and Olympic champions, hosted more than 180,000 people last year.

The government has invested billions of dollars in installing outdoor fitness centers throughout the country, all furnished with fitness equipment and facilities. It has also stipulated that 60 percent of the proceeds from the sports lottery must go toward the National Fitness Program.

Source: China Daily (By Yang Xinwei)


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