Having seen the rise of mass sports participation as a lifestyle in urban China, political adviser Yao Ming is calling for more accessible sporting activities at the grassroots level to galvanize the momentum. [Special coverage]
Once the backbone of China's national basketball program, Yao, a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference since 2013, has shifted his focus from perfecting his skill sets on the court to providing suggestions and solutions as a political adviser.
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.
More attention should be given to making sporting events more accessible for amateurs by organizing competitions and activities at the grassroots level, rather 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," said the former NBA All Star with the Houston Rockets.
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 proposal to promote in primary schools this year a "mini basketball" program customized for children under 12 years old-smaller basketballs, lower rims and more accessible courts-to make the already popular sport more appealing to the juniors.
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.
In addition to the school program, Yao said the CBA will also focus on working with 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.