China national games in dire need of reform

China national games in dire need of reform

Experts urge reforming, but not scrapping, the scandal-plagued National Games, in part because the important domestic sports gala is a lifeline for many less popular events and athletes.

Lu Yuanzhen, a sports sociologist at South China Normal University, attributed the scandals at the games to the medal mania.

"For years, we've been calling for a change from the medal pursuit, but elite competitive results remain major achievements in evaluating officials instead of achievements in promoting mass fitness," Lu said.

So it's not strange that farces play out at the cost of sportsmanship and the public image of sporting events, Lu added.

The 12th National Games, running until Sept 12 in Liaoning, have revealed the ugly side.

Incidents such as the Beijing female rugby sevens team throwing a match and a Sichuan synchronized swimming pair's public accusation of biased judges bring to mind similar embarrassments at previous games and spark debate on whether the event is needed.

"The games were initiated back in the planned economy era - in 1959 - to encourage public sports participation, but they have evolved into a fierce battle among local sports authorities to chase after medals and seek benefits," said Yi Jiandong, a sports researcher and vice-president of Jiangxi University of Finance and Economics.

The multisport extravaganza held every four years has developed into a 31-event competition at which provinces compete to bring home glory. To motivate their athletes, they offer rewards for medals that at times even surpass those offered for Olympic titles.

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