In the early years of the People's Republic of China, Chairman Mao Zedong said, `In the past, China was called `the sick man of East Asia'. Our economy and culture were seen as backward. The Chinese people were seen as unfit and they were weak at sports and athletics.'' It was with the realization of China's relatively poor position that the new nation began to build its sports culture. Of course, a vigorous sports industry requires a vigorous national economy. Therefore, Chinese sports have experienced their greatest period of development since reforms were initiated in 1978. During this period of macroeconomic reforms and the opening of the Chinese economy, Chinese sports at all levels have been granted a broader arena in which to display their full potential. During the past two decades, China has produced 1,113 champions who have broken world records some 750 times in such international competitions as the Olympic Games, world championships in a variety of sports, and world cup games.
The International Olympic Committee(IOC) passed the Nagoya Resolution in 1979, which enabled the athletes sponsored by the People's Republic of China to represent the Chinese nation in Olympic events and for the mainland representatives to join the IOC. This re-opened the door for mainland athletes to excel on the international stage. That same year, Wu Shude claimed China's first gold medal in an international event by lifting 110 kilograms. Also that year, Ma Yanhong won the high-bar and low-bar titles in the World Gymnastics Championships, becoming the first in a long line of Chinese world gymnastics champions.
Since 1980s, Chinese athletes have had more chances to compete with world-class athletes and have presented courageous performances. Chinese athletes have claimed world records and world championships a combined 270 times in dozens of events, most notably table tennis, women's volleyball, men's gymnastics, field and track, badminton, rhythmic gymnastics, diving, and weight lifting. On nine different occasions, the Chinese athletes or teams realized a world-first performance. For instance, the Chinese table tennis team claimed all the gold medals in the 36th World Championships, a first-ever in the 55 years of these competitions. The Chinese women's volleyball team has won the world championship time after time, suggesting volleyball levels in China have reached a breakthrough for the sport internationally. The men's gymnastics team took the team championships at the World Gymnastics Championships, and the women's speed walking team has repeatedly set records while grabbing championships. These accomplishments reflect the vast potential of all Chinese athletes to reach the highest levels of sports competition. At the close of 1982, China emerged victorious in the Ninth Asian Games with 153 medals, including 61 gold medals.
The rise of China's ports performances in international competitions has given overseas Chinese a sense that the motherland is being revitalized. A Chinese-language newspaper in North America reported, ``Since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, with an increasingly prosperous economy and rising living standards, China's sports have developed vigorously, and the quality of the athletes has continuously been on the rise. For three decades, Chinese athletes have gained satisfactory results in international competitions in the events of field and track, ball sports, gymnastics, swimming, diving, shooting, and others. They have put an end to the humiliation felt by Chinese people in the past. We should be inspired by the spirit of the Chinese women's volleyball team, and make more efforts to develop the country and win the country greater victories and higher honors.''
On July 28, 1984, Xu Haifeng claimed a gold medal in target shooting at the 23rd Olympic Games, the first for China. Also during the 23rd Games, the Chinese women's volleyball team claimed the championship, their third championship in international games. During the 16 days of competitions, Chinese athletes claimed a total of 15 gold medals.
On June 10 of that year, Zhu Jianhua cleared 2.39 meters, setting the world record in the high-jump for the third time. Chinese divers claimed three world championships at the Second Diving World Cup held in 1981, and China went on to win a combined 10 gold medals at the 5th and 7th World Diving Championships.
Divers claimed a total of nine gold medals in the 23rd-26th Olympic Games. China became a member of the World Badminton Federation in 1981. Since that time, Chinese athletes have won four Thomas Cups, six Uber Cups, and two Sudirman Cups. International badminton has entered the Age of Chinese Badminton.
Following on the ground-breaking, championship performance of Ma Haiyan, Li Ning became the all-round gymnastics champion, the floor exercise champion, and champion in the pommel horse, rings, vaulting, and horizontal bar. This gave rise to epoch-making influences in the international gymnastic field, and ever since Li Ning has been known as the "prince of gymnastics". In 1983, during the 22nd World Gymnastics Championships, the Chinese men claimed the team title, which had been dominated in the past by the Soviet Union. Many unique technical exercises named after Chinese gymnasts have been recorded in the history books of the International Gymnastics Federation, such as the Yuejiu Airspring, Mo's Airspring, and the Yangbo Jump.
In 1988, the records of the International Swimming Federation included for the first time a Chinese athlete, Yang Wenyi. At the Asian Swimming Championships that year, Yang broke the world record in the 50-meter free style event. At Olympic Games that year, the swimming team won, for the first time in the Olympic Games, three silver medals and one bronze medal. At the 25th and 26th Olympic Games, China's team gained a combined 10 gold medals. In 1994 at the 7th World Swimming Championships, Chinese athletes took away 12 gold medals, ranking first in this regard and thus attracting world attention.
At the mention of the year 1990, Chinese people will immediately be reminded of the Asian Games in Beijing. At this comprehensive international games hosted by China for the first time, Chinese athletes displayed their strengths and advantages and took away nearly 60 percent of the gold medals. The successes in hosting these games demonstrated the national comprehensive strength of China.
In 1993, and on the same pitches that had hosted the Beijing Asian Games, six athletes, including Wang Junxia and Qu Yunxia, broke the world records for women's 10,000-meter, 3,000-meter and 1,500-meter races. They were historical breakthroughs for China's track and field.
In 1995, the State Council promulgated the National Program for Physical Fitness, in an effort to promote the popularity of exercise. As a solution to the shortage of exercise space felt by urban residents, the State Sports Administration devoted 60 percent of the proceeds from a sports lottery to the National Program for Physical Fitness, which used the funds to construct public exercise fields in 51 cities. The administration added 30 million yuan to the input from local governments, bringing the development fund used in some 240 cities to over 100 million yuan.
Sports and exercises facilities in the urban areas are very active. There are currently 3,584 community-level sports organizations in China. These community groups have established centers for morning and evening exercises. The number of local residents taking part in these activities increases year after year. Individuals flock to gymnasiums, tennis courts, swimming pools, and golf courses and groups organize hiking trips in the suburbs, river rafting, or mountain climbing. Groups of exercisers are commonly seen in parks and open spaces in apartment compounds and along the busy urban streets. The physical qualities of the Chinese people have obviously been improved, and their average life expectancy now surpasses 70 years, giving China a boost on the longevity list of countries.
A national standard for sports and exercises is practiced among teenagers. In recent years, more than 100 million students have met the standard each year, and over 500,000 schools practice the State standard. They send over 10,000 student athletes to all-levels of sports schools and provide a reserve force of more than 1,000 for national teams. There are currently 360,000 students in sports schools at all levels, which produce an annual group of 100,000 trained athletes each year.
Enormous attention is also paid to sports and exercise in the countryside and the autonomous ethnic areas. Some 468 counties have been selected as doing excellent work in this regard, making up 21 percent of the total number of counties in China. The recognition of such counties has enhanced the drive to foster educational and coaching staffs in these areas. Some 532 sports facilities have been constructed at the county level since the program was initiated. Rural sports associations have sprung up throughout the countryside, and nearly 50 percent of the rural villages and towns have at least a part-time sport and exercise director among the government cadre. The sporting events organized in the areas that include large concentrations of the minority populations include traditional events. For instance, the Gaoshans enjoy a traditional sport known as rod ball. The Bai ethnic minority participate in a sport that involves jumping over flowerpots. The Lagu compete in top spinning. The Miao excel in a traditional style of archery. The Manchu spin tops on ice. The Oroqen take part in harness racing. The Dongs compete for firecrackers. And on the Tibetan Plateau, known as the Roof of the World and home to several ethnic groups, locals enjoy horseracing, riding, and yak racing. Traditionally, each July, August and September and on holidays, each county in the Tibet Autonomous Region will hold sports competitions in these events. The traditional sports of Wushu, Qigong, and Chinese-style wrestling have also entered a renaissance and have attracted many international fans, who have come to China to study.
In 1979, the People's Republic of China was granted the right to China's seat on the IOC. Since that time, sports exchanges between China and the world have become increasingly frequent, and relations between China and the IOC have become increasingly close. In recognition of China's active participation in international sports, of its selfless assistance to the developing countries in constructing sports facilities, and for its efforts in enhancing the world-wide development of the Olympic Games, the IOC awarded China the Olympic Cup.
Since its founding, the PRC has sent nearly 2,700 coaches abroad and has assisted in the construction of 27 sports fields, 15 gymnasiums, four swimming pools and 12 athlete dormitories in 38 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. These are recognized as bridges of friendship, linking the peoples of different countries.
With the rising reputation and status of China in international sports, China formed the China Olympic Committee in 1981. In the beginning of the 1990s, COC President He Zhenliang was elected vice president of the IOC at the 95th IOC Conference. China is a member of 80 international sports organizations and 40 Asian sports organizations. There are some 200 Chinese administrators and technical workers in these organizations. For this reason, the IOC has awarded sports leaders in China with an Olympic Gold Order and a dozen Olympic Silver Orders.
World records broken by Chinese athletes
In 1987, 24 world records were broken;
In 1988, 32 world records were broken;
In 1989, 34 world records were created;
In 1990, 14 world records were created;
In 1991, 31 world records were created;
In 1992, 42 world records were created;
In 1993, 57 world records were created;
In 1994, 41 world records were created;
In 1995, 13 world records were created;
In 1996, 22 world records were created;
In 1997, 29 world records were created;
In 1998, 31 world records were created.