Yao Ming joins a panel discussion during the first session of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) in Beijing on Tuesday. [Photo by ZHU XINGXIN/CHINA DAILY]
Having seen the rise of mass sports participation as a lifestyle in urban China, CPPCC member Yao Ming is calling for more accessible sporting activities at the grassroots level to galvanize the momentum.
Once the backbone of China's national basketball program, Yao, a member of CPPCC National Committee since 2013, has shifted his focus from perfecting his skill sets on the court to providing suggestions and solutions as a CPPCC member.
How to maximize the positive influence of sports, especially through his game of basketball, in China's fast-paced society has always been high on his agenda since Yao joined the CPPCC.
Making sporting events more accessible for amateurs by organizing competitions and activities at the grassroots level should draw more attention than just developing athletic prowess at the elite level, Yao said during the CPPCC annual meeting.
"We have to bring down the threshold of sports participation for the general public by making events and competitions much closer and easier to take part in," Yao told China Daily on Wednesday in Beijing.
"This will help more people adopt sports as a lifestyle while creating more business opportunities in the sports industry."
With major international events to be held in China, such as the 2019 FIBA World Cup and 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, Yao urged sports governing bodies in the country to make the most of major events to take mass sports participation to new heights.
The basketball Hall of Famer has been doing his part as the new chairman of the Chinese Basketball Association.
After running some test events under the new CBA leadership last year, Yao will file a new proposal to promote a "mini basketball" program customized for children under 12 years old, which features smaller balls, lower rims and more accessible courts, in primary schools this year to make the already popular sport more appealing to the juniors.
To rally support, Yao has met with officials including Wang Dengfeng, director of the Physical Education, Health and Arts Department of the Ministry of Education, to discuss implementation of the program.
As part of a national soccer reform plan, the Ministry of Education introduced soccer-specialized education to 20,218 schools by the end of 2017, and the junior basketball project was expected to have a similar scale of campus promotion.
"Our goal to improve the school PE program is to first cultivate young sports participants and then to promote a strong sports culture in Chinese schools. We welcome and support any efforts in this regard," said Wang.
In addition to the school program, Yao said the CBA will also focus on working with industrial sports associations in the country's energy, finance and public service sectors to integrate amateur basketball competitions into a more organized system.
Since being elected as the CBA chairman in February last year, Yao, the governing body's first chief drawn from outside government ranks, has been tasked with attracting investment and support to develop the association into a full-fledged nongovernmental organization with independent decision-making powers.
"The reformed CBA has to work on a broader field to connect all available parties and resources to popularize the game," said the former NBA All Star with the Houston Rockets.
With his tenure as a top political adviser extended for another five years, Yao will continue to leverage his influence to promote new initiatives, after having proposed ideas for streamlining sports event organization, stadium operation and professional league development.
However, he said his fame and eye-catching frame won't be enough. "It's always good to attract people's attention when you ought to express your opinions, but fame won't help implement your suggestions. It's solid research and profound thinking that make the difference," he said.
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