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Game On
Cover Stories Series 2012> Game On
UPDATED: August 13, 2012 NO. 33 AUGUST 16, 2012
Working Both Ways

The 2012 London Olympic Games have gotten much attention from Chinese citizens. Not only do they constantly keep themselves well informed of the intense rivalries at the games, they also take great delight in talking about how dominantly the winners have outperformed others in various events. As China bagged the highest number of gold medals in Beijing four years ago, the London Olympics have renewed their joys and expectations for the Chinese people to reign supreme at the top of the medal standings, as well as display good sportsmanship and unflinching will in competition at the world's biggest gathering of athletes.

One of the main reasons for this fervent enthusiasm about China's performance in the Olympics stems from their belief that winning in international sporting events brings glory and prestige to their motherland. To a large extent, the development of sports represents an important aspect of a nation's overall health and well-being. China used to be ridiculed as the "sick man of East Asia" through the first half of the last century, when it was plunged into internal chaos, widespread poverty and foreign aggression. Even during the first three decades of New China, its sports development remained by and large oblivious to the outside world, as the country had to give priority to fixing its poor and weak economic base. With the reform and opening up adopted from the late 1970s, China has made phenomenal progress in economic, social and cultural development, and also has become a new and formidable force in the world of sports.

The fast rise in Chinese athletics has been largely attributed to the country's national sports system, under which the government appropriates all necessary resources to select and cultivate talented athletes from childhood to adulthood, and provides logistics and facilities for all hopefuls, be they aspiring Olympians or local sports heroes. Over the past 30 years or so, this mechanism has proven very effective and fruitful in helping Chinese athletes excel in an increasing number of sports events over a relatively short period of time.

While the country has gained more and more world championship titles, many Chinese citizens have voiced their opinions that priority should also be given to boosting public sports and fitness activities, given some statistics and surveys indicating the general health conditions of a growing number of Chinese citizens are deteriorating markedly in recent years. They suggest that more preferential policies and special schemes should be drawn up toward this end, and more funding allocated to build up more sports facilities for public use, from fitness equipment to sports fields and indoor gyms. After all, the primary function of playing sports is to maintain human fitness, and making citizens physically strong and healthy is no less important than earning medals in the global sports arena.

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