By Xinhua sportswriter Xiao Shiyao, Ding Wenxian, Li Li
BEIJING, Sept. 28 (Xinhua) -- The Five-Starred Red Flag fluttered across the Maruzen Intec Arena with the resounding "March of the volunteers" echoing, chanting for another glorious victory in the history of the Chinese sports as China women's volleyball team stormed to the World Cup champions with ten straight wins in Osaka, Japan on Saturday.
"Everytime we play, we hold the same determination to raise our national flag and play the national anthem," Lang Ping, China women's volleyball team head coach, noted at the beginning of the tournament.
With two days to mark the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, the team of illustrious past has given its home country a timely and inspiring birthday gift.
For a nation once labelled as the "Sick Man of East Asia", Sports has a great significance that goes beyond itself. During the country's 70-year leaping development, Chinese sports have always been an indispensable role in motivating generations after generations.
Emerging from scratch
"The Spirit of China Women's Volleyball Team," known for hard work and never giving up, is undoubtedly one of the greatest representatives of Chinese sports, which was all originated from a rough training center built of bamboo in Zhangzhou, Fujian province.
"The training center was built in 1972. It consisted of five bamboo scaffold courts with cement floors. The players were bleeding every time they fell down as gravels scraped their arms and legs," Zhong Jiaqi, the former head of Zhangzhou volleyball training center, recalled.
In the year of 1976, when Yuan Weimin, China's women volleyball head coach then, and the 16-year-old Lang Ping met at the training center for the first time, neither of them realized that a great chapter to unfold.
"We didn't know [if we could compete in the world]. The coach challenged your limits in every training session. Sometimes, I had to practice spiking from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m.," said Lang, whose "grueling training" memories resonated by many Chinese athletes of that era, when the training conditions of the young and impoverished country were far behind the world.
"We were given two suits of clothes and two pair of shoes every year. The shoes scuffed quickly and raised many blisters on my heels, while the clothes needed to be mended multiple times," said Fang Fengdi, who shares the same age as her country, captained China's women basketball team in late 1970s.
Despite innumerable obstacles of the early days, sports started to emerge from scratch in China.
In 1952, Chairman Mao Zedong set the principle of "promoting physical culture and sports; strengthening the people's physique."
In 1959, Rong Guotuan won the men's singles at the 1959 world table tennis championship in Germany to be the first world champion representing the new China.
One year later, the Chinese mountaineering team completed the historic reach to the summit of Qomolangma via the north face.
"We knew we were left behind. We worked as hard as possible in order to catch up with the world level," said Fang, who led her team to clinch its first ever Asian champions in 1976.
Fang retired in 1979 when she turned 30, leaving a regret that not being able to participate in the Olympics."The athletes of my generation could hardly remain in the high level after 30s due to the lagging medical conditions," She added.
In the year of Fang's retirement, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) passed a Nagoya resolution in Nagoya, Japan, restoring the rights of the Chinese Olympic Committee within the IOC.
After two decades of isolation, Chinese sports eventually integrated into the globe, with an widely-known slogan of that time "break Asian records and set sights on a world level in sports."
"I felt happy for the young athletes as they could see more of the world," Fang said, with a grin on her face.
Progressing in the world
Lang Ping and her teammates, after five years of endeavors, set their first sight on the world in 1981 when they took seven consecutive wins to lift the World Cup trophy in Japan.
They conquered the Los Angeles Olympic Games, two World Championships and two World Cups between 1981 and 1986, along with China's rise in the world sport.
"I have many good memories as a player and then as a coach. The 1984 Los Angeles Olympics is the special one for me. It was my first Olympic games," the "Iron Hammer" Lang recalled many years afterwards.
In 1984, Chinese delegation returned back to the Summer Olympics and unprecedentedly ended the gold drought by Xu Haifeng, who won the 50m pistol final at the event.
Xu, in retrospect, initially didn't know it as the first gold medal of the country. "Until a reporter told me that all the newspapers in Beijing were sold out. My scalp tingled," he said.
At that year, Fang Fengdi watched the Olympic Games on the television with her four-year-old son together, whose name is Yao Ming, a later household name of the country.
At that year, the nine-year-old girl from northeast China Yang Yang started her ice skating training. "I want to be the same as Xu and Lang when I grow up," she said then.
The Olympic successes, along with China's rising economy, have instilled new confidence to the Chinese people to host an Olympic Games.
Beijing lost its first bid in 1993 to host the 2000 Olympics. Eight years later in 2001, the IOC awarded the 2008 Olympic Games to the Chinese capital.
"The eight years witnessed a great leap in economic development and social progress. The great change impressed a lot of IOC members. I believed we really had a shot this time," Wei Jizhong, a then top Chinese Olympic official, recalled in his book My Sports Career.
"The Olympic Movement would not amount to anything without China," said the then IOC president Juan Samaranch, who announced the decision that the IOC opted Beijing
Yang Yang, who grew up to be the leading athlete of short track speed skating then, was on a train when Beijing won the bid. "The whole train erupted into a sea of happiness."
At the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, the Chinese delegation once again fought for their first gold medal in winter sports. However in the women's 1,500m, an event Yang Yang had not lost in five years, she only finished fourth and missed the podium.
The legendary volleyball coach Yuan Weimin, who was the head of the Chinese delegation then, had a deep conversation with the frustrated Yang after the loss, which remained fresh in her mind.
"They didn't blame me at all. I was out of control and cried a lot. I cut my hair and changed my lucky vest to tell myself I have nothing that can't lose," Yang said.
Yang eventually won the women's 500m event one day after the conversation. Her victory at the 2002 Winter Olympics made her China's first-ever Winter Olympics gold medalist.
Four months after Yang's triumph in the United states, the 22-year-old Yao Ming was selected as the first overall pick by the Huston Rockets. After nine seasons in the NBA, he became not only an icon of the Chinese youth, but also the ambassador of Sino-U.S. cultural exchanges.
"I want to thank this great and progressive era, which gives me the opportunity to realize my own values and dreams," Yao said in his retirement announcement in 2011.
In addition to Yao, Liu Xiang became the first Chinese man to win an Olympic track and field gold when he stormed to the 110 hurdles victory in Athens 2004.
Chinese sports started to have its own world superstars, with "the first Asian Grand Slam singles champion" Li Na and "the king of freestyle swimming" Sun Yang also on the list.
From 1949 to 2018, Chinese athletes had won 3,454 world major titles and had broken or equalled world records for 1,332 times.
China stunned the world with the progress it has made in grooming athletic talents since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
Aiming for a "modern sports power"
On Aug. 8, 2008, when the 29 golden giant footprints traversed along the axis of Beijing from Tian'anmen Square to the "Bird's Nest" to unveil the opening ceremony of 2008 Beijing Olympics, China made its landmark in the history of the Olympic movement.
"The Beijing Olympic Games are truly exceptional Games," Jacques Rogge, the former IOC president, noted at the closing ceremony.
The successful Summer Olympics left China with abundant legacies such as modern sporting facilities, improved urban infrastructure and greater environmental awareness.
In 2009, China's State Council named Aug. 8 as the National Fitness Day, calling on Chinese people to participate in sports activities.
According to the "Outline to Building a Leading Sports Nation" issued by the State Council in early September this year, 45 percent of the population in China are expected to get involved in regular exercise by 2035, up from 33.9 percent in 2018.
During the last ten years, Chinese government has implemented a series of policies, aiming to build China into a "modern sports power" by 2050, which is recognized as an integral part of realizing the Chinese dream of rejuvenating the nation.
In order to stimulate the relative backward winter sports, Beijing formally announced its bid to the IOC as a candidate city for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in November, 2013.
Yang Yang, who was retired in 2006 and elected as the IOC member in 2010, played an important role in Beijing's bid committee.
"I was sweating a lot and felt uncomfortable," Yang said, recalling her inspection trip with the IOC group at Beijing in March, 2015, "after all the work finished, I went to the hospital and confirmed pregnancy."
When the IOC awarded the 2022 Winter Olympics to Beijing as China's capital became the first city ever to host both summer and winter Olympics On July 31, 2015, Yang, who was six months pregnant, bursted into tears.
With less than three years ahead of the 2022 Olympics, Beijing now is taking steps to comply with Olympic Agenda 2020 by putting on a Games that is "green, inclusive, open and clean" to honor China's commitment to host a "fantastic, extraordinary and excellent" Games.
"Beijing 2022 can set a new benchmark for a sustainable Olympic Games, on one hand benefiting from the legacy of the Beijing 2008 and on the other developing a new winter sports destination in a sustainable way," the IOC president Thomas Bach spoke highly of how China's ideas contributed to the international Olympic Movement.
"Just think about the 300 million participants in winter sports. It is a remarkable contribution to the Olympics in itself," Yang Yang stated, who opened the Feiyang Skating Center to encourage more people in the country to participate in winter sports. "The dream enables us to see the future, motivates us to move forward, and constantly surpass ourselves."
Besides, China plans to compete in all 109 events in 2022 Games, a number which is unprecedented and will certainly bring a new momentum to winter sports in China.
Yao Ming was also on the bid team as one of the six Beijing 2022 bid ambassadors, "Many Chinese people have adopted a sporting lifestyle since Beijing 2008," which not only helped transform the city into an international cosmopolitan destination, but also solidified a deep sporting culture, he said.
The basketball player now serves as the president of the Chinse Basketball Association since the year of 2017. A string of basketball institutional reforms has been implemented under his leadership.
Yao, alongside with other two sports icons Lang Ping and Xu Haifeng, were among the 100 people selected to be awarded for their contributions to the country's reform and opening-up in 2018.
In addition to Yao's basketball reform, Chinese government also published "the Overall Plan for China's Football Reform and Development" in 2015, planing to transform the country into a footballing powerhouse by 2050.
The in-depth reforms have been practiced in various aspects of the Chinese Sports.
As the reforms go deep, the sports industry starts to flourish. From 2014 to 2018, China's sports industry had increased from 1.35 trillion yuan to 2.2 trillion yuan (190-310 billion US dollars), with an average annual growth rate of 18 percent. In 2017, the added value of the sports industry exceeded 1 percent in the country's GDP for the first time to become a new kinetic energy for China's economic growth.
Anta, China's leading sportswear company, now ranks the third in the world, after Nike and Adidas. China's sports manufacturing industry has transformed from "made in China" to "created in China." As more and more Chinese brands go global, Chinese enterprises have grown to be an indispensable part of World Sports Marketing, which saw seven Chinese companies's presence as sponsors at 2018 Russia World Cup.
After 70 years of development, China has became a world sports power out of nowhere. Aiming to achieve wider public engagement in sport, better competitive sporting performances, a stronger sports industry, a more vibrant sporting culture, and enhanced sports exchanges, a new era of Chinese sports is yet to come.