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UPDATED: December 3, 2010 NO. 49 DECEMBER 9, 2010
Gold Medals and Overall Health

The 16th Asian Games concluded on November 27 in south China's Guangzhou, Guangdong Province. The Chinese delegation set new records, with its number of gold medals and total medals, both far more than any other Asian countries and regions.

China's strength in sports, especially athletics, has grown rapidly in the past decades. The country gained its first Olympic gold medal in Los Angeles in 1984. In the 2000 Olympic Games in Australia's Sydney, China ranked third in terms of the total number of medals. In 2008, China realized its dream of hundreds of years by successfully hosting the 29th Olympic Games in its capital Beijing, where it ranked first in terms of the number of gold medals.

As for the Asian Games, China has topped the gold and overall medal tallies in six consecutive games since 1990.

Compared with the soaring profile of athletic sports, Chinese people's health is generally in a worrisome condition. Statistics from the Xinhua News Agency show 160 million citizens suffer from hypertension, another 160 million people have hyperlipaemia, and 200 million people are either overweight or have obesity problems. Seventy-five percent of Chinese population is below normal standards of health. Compared to the situation in 2000, the physiques of Chinese youth have continued to deteriorate with the obesity rate increasing by 50 percent and myopia increasing from 20 to 31 percent.

Based on the initial results of an official survey on children and teenagers, more than 60 percent of Chinese students don't have physical exercise areas in their living environment. In their spare time, Chinese students' three most favored activities are: chatting and playing games online, listening to music and watching TV. Less than 30 percent of the students put sports activities on their lists of favored ways of killing time. Less than 6.3 percent of the students exercise for more than two hours a day while 1.3 percent exercise for more than three hours. In neighboring Japan, these numbers are as high as 21.3 percent.

China promulgated the Sports Law and the Outline of the National Fitness Program in 1995. With government support, the fitness program was designed to involve and benefit all citizens.

Nonetheless, the results are far less than satisfying. Only 37 percent of the people aged between 7 and 70 regularly participate in physical exercise and the number of fitness instructors just exceeds 430,000, although twice that of 2000. Based on the Fifth National Survey of Sports Facilities, China has 850,000 sports venues, 6.58 for every 10,000 people and 1.03 square meters for each person. Those two numbers have increased by 31.6 percent and 58.46 percent respectively compared with 1995. But they are behind international average levels, and cannot satisfy the needs of Chinese people for physical exercise at all now.

The Asian Games in Guangzhou once again demonstrates China's sports development. It also brings about retrospective thinking. Sports development shouldn't only be about gold medals in international competitions but should enable more people to participate in physical exercise and enjoy the joy of sports while at the same time building sound bodies.

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