The development of sports in a country is determined by both internal and external factors. During the past two decades or so, these two factors have been favourable for a rapid development of sports in China. Externally, the restoration of China's legitimate rights in international sports organizations in the late '70s paved the way for the country to play an active part in the global Olympic Movement. Internally, the whole country has entered a period of unprecedented prosperity as a result of the government policy of "reform and opening to the outside world."
Since the Nagoya meeting of the IOC in 1979, China has resumed her membership in, or been newly admitted to, international sports organizations one after another on "IOC model." He Zhenliang, former President of the Chinese Olympic Committee, was elected a member of the IOC Executive Board in 1985 and Vice-President in 1989. He is the first Chinese to hold such high distinction. As noted by former IOC President Samaranch, China has become an important member of the Olympic Family. Over the years the IOC has awarded Olympic orders to a number of Chinese state and sports leaders. Moreover, with China's status properly established in international sports organizations, China has been able to carry out many exchanges with the outside world - much more than those during any previous period. During the '80s, China conducted 37,288 exchanges involving 77,866 people, considerably more than the total in the previous three decades combined.
As result of the implementation of the Nagoya IOC resolution, sports exchanges have also started between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. For more than 30 years neither side participated in sporting activities held by international organizations with which the other was affiliated. Since the early '80s, the situation has changed. Teams from both sides participated in the Olympic and Asian Games. Many sports leaders and athletes in Taiwan have bben to the mainland. It is hoped that the "one-way traffic" in exchanges to date will turn into "two-way traffic" in the near future.
Here particular mention should be made of the 11th Asian Games held in Beijing in 1990. It was not only a major contribution made by China towards the global Olympic Movement, but also a great social event that produced far-reaching effects beyond the field of sports. In preparation for the 11th Asian Games, a number of sports complexes and grand hotels sprang up altering Beijing's skyline in just a few years: Comprehensive computer services and satellite TV capabilities were established. A 408m-tall TV tower arose in Beijing, the highest man-made edifice in Asia. A doping test centre was built with the accreditation of IOC Medical Commission. Seventy percent sports apparatus used at the Games were manufactured in China. Beijing registered an all-time high foreign currency income from tourism in September 1990 when the Games were held. In the three months before and after the Games, the number of tourists to Shaanxi Province, one of China's tourist centres, tripled the 1989 figure. Tourist income in the area was up 160 percent. The Games also increased the country's retail sales which amounted to 22.4 billion yuan (4.17 billion US dollars) in Beijing over the first nine months of 1990, an increase of 13.9 percent over the corresponding period the preceding year.
The Games brought the whole nation together. The spectacular "Light of Asian Games" torch relay race was the biggest ever held in the world. Some 170 million people - 15 percent of China's population - joined in or witnessed the relay, lining the streets and roads where the torches were carried. The relay covered a total distance of 180,000km before reaching Beijing where the sacred flame was kindled at the opening ceremony of the Games. It was a huge demonstration not only of support for the Games, but also of national unity. To cover a shortfall of 0.6 billion yuan in the Games budget, a nationwide donation campaign was held. The quota was fulfilled ahead of schedule - another sign of patriotism and support for the Games.
The Games' Arts Festival was a showcase of China's rich culture, with 62 ensembles presenting some 180 shows of local drama, acrobatics, and folk songs and dances; 51 exhibitions of relics, national costumes, folk customs, and paintings and sculptures on the theme of sport; and a dragon-boat regatta, a lantern festival and market fairs held in the city's parks providing millions with cultural entertainment.
The tremendous success of the Games encouraged Beijing to bid for the 2000 Olympics and prove its full ability to host the world's greatest sports gathering.
Following the 11th Asian Games, China has achieved continuous and steady development in sports, and sports reform has made significant headways. A long-term plan for sports promotion was worked out and put into practice, and with the promulgation of the Sports Law in October 1995 a breakthrough was made in the institution of a legal system for sports in the country. While mass sports have been more active and widespread, with a great increase in the number of networks and organizations at the grass-roots level, and sports exchanges and cooperation with other countries and regions have been expanding continuously, China's overall strength in competitive sports has remarkably increased. Statistics show that since 1959 when Rong Guotuan won China's first world title in the men's singles event at the 25th World Table Tennis Championships, Chinese athletes had won a total of 1,608 world titles and set world records on 1,087 occasions by the end of 2002. During the last 13 years from 1989 to 2002, Chinese athletes collected 1,254 world titles and surpassed or rewrote world records on 705 occasions, accounting for 77.9% and 64.8% respectively of the total numbers of world titles won and world records set in 43 years.
China first took part in the quadrennial Asian Games in 1974. Since 1986 the Chinese delegation has been high on top of the gold medal table for five times in a row.
As regards its participation in the Olympic Games, China did not take part in the 22nd Olympics held in Moscow in 1980 which was boycotted by two-fifths of the IOC-recognized NOCs to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Since 1984 China has participated in five Olympic Summer Games, in which 85 Chinese athletes, on 108 occasions, won 80 gold medals in 55 events of 10 sports including diving. When the 23rd Olympics were held in Los Angeles in 1984, China sent a delegation of 353 members. China's first gold medal at the L.A. Games was won by Xu Haifeng, a marksman who also became the first Chinese to win such an honour in Olympic history. Altogether the Chinese athletes took 15 gold, eight silver and nine bronze medals, a remarkable Olympic debut. They had every reason to rejoice over this bumper harvest, particularly when they recalled their country's performance 52 years before at the 10th Olympics, which also took place in Los Angeles, when the only Chinese participant Liu Changchun was eliminated in the men's 100m and 200m sprint preliminaries.
China did not fare so well at the 24th Olympics held in Seoul in 1988 as far as medal standings (five golds, 11 silvers and 12 bronzes) were concerned, mainly because of the participation of the Soviet and Eastern European athletes. Even so, the Seoul Games was a happy occasion for all. It was the only Olympics in the '80s attended by both the Soviet Union and the United States, and was an unmistakable sign of relaxation of international tensions.
At the 25th Olympics held in Barcelona in 1992, China collected 16 golds, 22 silvers and 16 bronzes to place fourth in medal standings behind the Commonwealth of Independent States, the United States and Germany.
At the Centennial Olympics held in Atlanta in 1996, China maintained its fourth place with 16 golds, 22 silvers and 12 bronzes following the United States, Russia and Germany.
At the Sydney Olympics in 2000 China won an unprecedented haul of 28 golds to rank third in gold medal standings, accomplishing the strategic plan laid down in the 1980s. At the 19th Olympic Winter Games held in Salt Lake City in 2002, short-track speed skater Yang Yang (A) ended China's Winter Olympics gold medal drought by beating a strong field to win both the women's 500m and 1000m races.
With the deepening of reforms in sports, a new pattern has formed with sports being managed by both state and society as a whole. As a result, more than 20 national sports administrative centres have been set up to govern various competitive sports originally under the direct administration of the State Sport General Administration. A considerable portion of funds to sports training, competition and facilities construction comes from enterprises and individuals instead of exclusively from government budgets. Sports industry is flourishing. The National Fitness Programme has witnessed a vigorous development throughout the country, as the Chinese sports authorities have paid equal attention to raising athletic standards and promoting sports among the masses of people. Meanwhile, new chapters have been opened in scientific research and publicity. It is the belief of many that with Beijing's successful bid for the 2008 Olympic Games sports in this country, Olympic or non-Olympic, will develop to a new high in the lead-up to the Games, which will in turn help make further contributions to the global Olympic Movement.