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Action Sports And Sport Participation in China

Thoughtful China has a very interesting video discussion lately on action sports and sports participation in China that really worth checking out.

In the video, Harvey Davis, vice president at ESPN’s Events Management Group, reckons that “these [action] sports are now recognized in China as real sports, with real committees and real organizations reporting up to the top government organizations in Beijing” and concluded that as “one of the biggest things for the growth of sport in China.” With that comes, as in the case of Shanghainese BMX rider Shen Jian and his friends, a clash of interest between government organization and athletes/brands.

China has definitely been picking up actions sports in the past five years. But just because promoters established ties with the government, doesn’t mean the sports become mainstream in the country. And I think part of the image of the sports, as manifested in tattoos and piercings for most of the athletes, may be the main reason why Chinese parents would not want their children to practice in it.

In the Shen Jian story, we had a chance to talk with Chen Jie, CEO of SMP Skate Park in Shanghai. The world largest skate-park now has about 2,000 members and over ninety percent of them, according to Mr.Chen, are foreigners.

“It looks now we’re turning into a club catering exclusively to foreigners,” said Chen. “Some wealthy Chinese send their kids here to play only because they want their children to be more international, as the children could speak English with kids from other countries in the park.”

“They focus on language exchange, not the sports themselves, which again turned practitioners of extreme sports into a minority group.” Chen is cutting down on the ticket prices this June in hopes of bringing more local kids in, but he opines the results might not be fruitful.

Also in the video, PT Black commentates on sports participation in the country and why Chinese are more likely to watch than actually play sports.

Part of the reason, PT noted, comes from “a legacy of centralized sports planning” which “takes all the kids who’re good at sports out of the mainstream school system, therefore depriving their classmates of the chance to actually play with the good kids.”

Parents are the “biggest obstacle” and another reason to the lack of participation in PT’s opinion. “When the exam system is so important, parents look at any moment dedicated to sports as a moment that should have been spend studying.”

Any other reasons? This is actually what we look forward to finding out at Sports Illustrated China as the magazine is rolling out a cover feature on the topic. So more later on this.

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