POSTED: Wednesday July 22nd 2015

Yao Ming: Beijing 2008 a key driver in delivering a new Beijing 2022 sports legacy

The fourth in a series profiling Chinese athletes in support of Beijing 2022

Yao Ming Beijing 2022 would bring Beijing 2008’s legacy “to a new level” ©Beijing 2022
Yao Ming Beijing 2022 would bring Beijing 2008’s legacy “to a new level” ©Beijing 2022

Yao carried the Chinese national flag during the opening ceremonies for Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 ©Beijing 2022
Yao carried the Chinese national flag during the opening ceremonies for Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 ©Beijing 2022

Beijing, July 22 - In line with Beijing 2022's pledge to host an athlete-centered Games, China's top Olympic athletes have played a key role in designing an Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games bid that prioritizes the athlete experience. Three-time Chinese Olympian and eight-time NBA All-Star Yao Ming - arguably one of China's best-known athletes - was passionate about becoming one of the six Beijing 2022 Bid Ambassadors because he believes that bringing Winter Games to Beijing would expand upon the strong sports legacy that China enjoyed from the city's hosting of the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

"One of the many ways Beijing 2008 changed China is that sport is now a lifestyle here," Yao said, adding that "Beijing 2022 would bring this all to a new level."
For Yao, Beijing hosting the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games not only have a huge impact in helping transform the city into an international cosmopolitan destination, but also solidified a deep sporting culture that remains prevalent to this day:
"Many Chinese people have adopted a sporting lifestyle since Beijing 2008," 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 2008venue Bird's Nest - which will also be a key venue for a Beijing 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

Earlier this year, the city 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 XXIV 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, Jilin, Changchun, Shenyang, and Harbin from 2004-2014; and the ISU World Figure Skating Championships in Shanghai last March.
Yet for the international basketball sensation, the best way to sustainably develop a long-term sporting culture is by starting at the grass roots level. Ever since retiring from basketball in 2011, Yao has dedicated the majority of his post-athletic career towards the promotion of a mass sports culture in China, focusing particularly on physical education.

Where some schools have previously not had the means to fully focus on physical education, Yao has vowed to lend 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 the 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."
With this background, it is no surprise that Yao strongly identifies with Beijing 2022's goal of inspiring 300 million Chinese to participate in winter sports. With northern China's cold winters, Yao said, it would be unfortunate to "force all outdoor sport activity into hibernation" from November to April. 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, Yao said.

Additionally and fully in line with Yao's personal goal of positively impacting 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 that was successfully developed for the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

"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."

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Keywords · Beijing 2022 · Olympics · winter Games · Yao Ming

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