Following Beijing's successful bid for the right to host the 2008 Olympic Games, the 9th National Games held in south China's Guangdong Province on November 11-25, 2001 was regarded as an overall review of the nation's Olympic teams for Athens 2004.
For this first major national sporting event in the new century, the organizers invited some 90 distinguished guests from abroad to observe the Games, among whom were 41 members of the International Olympic Committee headed by the new IOC President Jacque Rogge, some foreign sports ministers and NOC leaders. The guests were impressed by the great changes in Guangdong and spoke highly of the organizational work of the Games.
Statistics show that a total of 12,314 athletes participated in the preliminaries and 8,608 competed in the finals of the Games, during which seven world records in women's weightlifting, six Asian records in swimming, cycling and athletics as well as 37 national records were bettered. Of the 45 participating delegations 32 struck gold and 37 got medals, which showed that the overall level of sport in this country had been improved in a steady way.
Hosts Guangdong Province topped the final medal tally with 69.5 golds, followed by northeastern Liaoning Province (41) and the Chinese People's Liberation Army (33).
The 13-day games also witnessed Chinese superiority in its traditional sports of table tennis, badminton, gymnastics and diving, from which China garnered 16 gold medals in the Sydney Olympics.
Swimming was one of the most record-productive sports in Guangdong, with six world best times set and some results ranked among the year's world top three.
Team Hong Kong won its first ever athletics medal at the National Games on the last day of the gold-rich athletics events of the quadrennial sports meet. Representing the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Chiang Wai Hung, Tang Hong Sing, To Wai Lok and Ho Kwan Lung clocked 39.95secs to grab the silver medal in the men's 4x100m relay, following the Guangxi team with 39.56secs.
Known as "kingdom of bicycles" for the impressive number of bicycles in the country, China was happy to see the competitive cycling standard raised at the Games. It was encouraging for people to see the top three marks had been timed under 35 seconds in the women's 500m time trial final. Jiang Yonghua of Beijing beat Olympic bronze medallist Jiang Cuihua of Liaoning in a new Asian record time of 34.751 seconds, the previous Asian mark being 34.768 set by Jiang Cuihua at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Cycling as a sport has developed in Europe for more than a century, but in China it is still regarded as a means of transportation rather than a sport. By the time of the 9th National Games, cycling as an Olympic event was beginning to arouse much more concerns in the country and cycling clubs had been founded in Beijing, Liaoning and some other areas, which functioned as a rudiment for Chinese professional cycling units. According to experts, a practical and effective format needed to be established to help improve the domestic standard, especially for women's short-distance time trial events. The national sports authorities hoped to improve the level of the sport to stimulate the professional development, which would in turn help speed up the breakthrough in this field.
In gymnastics, China did a very good job in getting its gymnasts adjusted to the new scoring system of the International Gymnastics Federation. According to Huang Yubin, head coach of the Chinese national team, the new Code of Points introduced by the FIG in the past January had brought about so significant changes to the sport that every country had returned to the same starting line. During the 9th Games, the Chinese gymnasts showed that they were quick to adjust themselves to the new system, doing well either in start value or the degree of difficulty. As planned by coaches of the national team, all gymnasts will have routines with 10-point start value by the 2004 Olympics.
The softball competition, however, showed alarming signs of regression of the sport. As warned by former head coach Li Minkuan who took the national team to the softball final of the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, the 36 matches played showed a downslide of overall level of China's softball, and very few promising players emerged from the eight teams competing in Guangdong.
A world-class field including some 20 world and Olympic champions made diving one of the most exciting sports at the Games, which was said to be "even more competitive than the Olympics". However, worries came after joy even in such favourite events as diving. Dubbed as "dream teams" both at Olympic Games and world championships, Chinese diving faced a shortage of young talents in springboard events, especially for men's and women's synchronized.
To many people, the diversity of international presence at the Games was a landmark of the two-week sports gathering. Never before were so many foreign faces witnessed at a domestic sports meet as at the 9th National Games. Officials from the State Sport General Administration observed that most of teams steered by foreign coaches showed considerable improvement in their performances. They regarded employing foreign coaches as "a short-cut" to narrow the gap between Chinese and top-level athletes in the world, as evidenced at the latest national games. Active at the venues during the Games were coaches from France, Germany, Russia, South Korea, Yugoslavia and other countries, who had been offering expertise in sports ranging from fencing, archery, trampoline, cycling, archery, soccer, synchronized swimming to trampoline. In all these sports, China was rather weak and the foreign coaches were appreciated for their experienced guidance and dedication.
The Games organizers also invited 15 foreign judges and umpires to officiate the competitions in field hockey, softball, figure skating, water polo and equestrian, which was believed to boost the sporting spirit of fair play and make Chinese athletes better accustomed to their future showcase outside China.
Besides the great athletic achievements made at the Games, the local organizers set a precedent in the history of this quadrennial event for turning the broadcasting rights sales into a money-spinner, incurring criticisms that the Games is "permeated with commercialism." Before that, the National Games used to lie totally on the government funding. Many believed that as China was pursuing for a socialist market-oriented economy, the past practice of allowing the broadcasters to cover sporting events free of charge had become outdated.
To fight against doping in sport and ensure fair play, blood test, which aims to detect the use of performance-enhancing erythropoietin (EPO), was adopted for the first time for the National Games in Guangdong. During the Games the organizing committee conducted 1,349 doping tests, including 28 on racing horses, and 320 blood tests. All the samples were air-lifted to the Beijing-based, IOC-accredited China Anti-doping Testing Center. A supervisory panel was also set up to monitor the doping control, and to double lock the door against any doping cheats. One athlete was disqualified for failing to report for a blood test and six athletes were asked to quit their events for abnormal blood test results. Of the 1,321 urine samples collected, eight tested positive and the athletes and teams involved had been strictly punished.
At the closing ceremony of the Games, the Chinese sports chief Yuan Weimin called on nationwide efforts to further implement the "Sports for All" National Fitness Programme and the "All for Olympic Glory" Programme for greater sporting achievements in major world tournaments including the 2004 Olympics in Athens and the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.