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Yao Ming: Beijing 2008 delivers strong legacy to Beijing 2022

(Xinhua)    17:06, July 27, 2015

KUALA LUMPUR, July 27 -- Yao Ming, three-time Chinese Olympian and eight-time NBA All-Star, said here Monday that bringing Winter Games to Beijing would expand upon the strong sporting legacy that China enjoyed from the city's hosting of the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

One of the six Beijing 2022 Bid Ambassadors, Yao Ming told Xinhua,"One of the many ways Beijing 2008 changed China is that sport is now a lifestyle in the country, and I believe that Beijing 2022 would bring this to a new level."

"Many Chinese people have adopted a sporting lifestyle since Beijing 2008", which not only helped transform the city into an international cosmopolitan destination, but also solidified a deep sporting culture, Yao said.

Over the years since Beijing 2008, the city has seen a proliferation of hosting major sporting events, from its two hometown franchise heroes the Beijing Ducks (basketball) and Guoan (football) to hosting the upcoming 2015 IAAF World Athletics Championships, which kicks off next month at the iconic Beijing 2008 venue Bird's Nest - which will also be a key venue for a Beijing 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

Earlier this year, Beijing was ranked fifth in the 10 Best International Sports Cities. China has also gained over the years a rich organizing experience in winter multi-sport events - including but not limited to two editions of Asian Winter Games; the Winter Universiade in Harbin in 2009; the Men's Curling Championship in Beijing in 2014; legs of the FIS Freestyle Skiing World Cup in Beijing, Changchun, Shenyang, and Harbin from 2004-2014; and the ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Shanghai last March.

Yao believes that the best way to sustainably develop a long-term sporting culture is to start at the grass-root level. Ever since retiring from basketball in 2011, Yao has been focusing on the promotion of a mass sports culture in China, particularly on physical education.

As some schools did not have the means to focus on physical education, Yao gave a helping hand. In one initiative, he began working with a large number of volunteers and started a junior basketball league in 2012 for young students living in remote village schools in China.

"We'd like those kids living in the mountains to have the opportunity to go to big cities or travel to other schools to see how life is over there," Yao said, adding that the project is not about getting students to "dream big" but rather "dream differently".

It is no surprise that Yao strongly identifies with Beijing 2022's goal of inspiring 300 million Chinese to participate in winter sports.

Northern China's cold winters "force all outdoor sport activity into hibernation" from November to April, Yao said. But expanding on an already rapidly developing winter sports culture through hosting a Winter Olympics could mean that the Chinese - especially those in northern provincial areas as Zhangjiakou - could maintain their healthy lifestyle all year round without being forced to stay indoors.

In line with Yao's personal goal of improving the lives of youth through sports participation, Beijing 2022 would institute a Winter Olympic education program at more than 300,000 schools across China, reaching 400 million children. This program would work through infrastructure already in place for the Beijing 2008.

"Beijing has the experience and the infrastructure from 2008 to stage a remarkable Winter Olympics," Yao said. "Beyond this, it would contribute to a well-rounded sports culture in China that covers more ground than just basketball and football."

The international superstar added that this is important, as "sport is more than just a physical competition; it is a way to forge character and discipline."

The International Olympic Committee will vote to decide the host of the 2022 Winter Olympics on July 31 in its 128th conference in Kuala Lumpur.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Zhang Qian,Bianji)

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