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Traditionally table tennis, badminton and basketball are the most famous sports in China, but football and winter sports are getting more popular as well. Of course, we can find Chinese athletes in almost every sport in the Olympics, usually getting medals wherever they compete. In the following list we tried to collect all the sports which are successful among the professional and amateur athletes as well.
With almost 1.4 billion people, Chinese market is huge, which has been recognized by main sports organizations and advertising companies too. More and more world events are held in China, like the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing which will host the next Winter Games as well in 2022. Before the 1990s sports were only founded by the government, but in 1994 first football then more and more sports were commercialized. It opened up the door for professional leagues and athletes and made sport more popular between people. We can see the results in the medal tables of different world events and the Olympics, where China usually finishes in the best countries.
1. Table tennis and badminton
Both table tennis and badminton are in the most famous sports in China, played by millions of people due to being cheap and easily accessible for everyone. Chinese athletes have been dominating both sports for decades now, often winning all events in the world championships. The most famous badminton player, Lin Dan is a two-time Olympic and five-time World champion and is one of the biggest stars in the country.
Table tennis was made popular by Chairman Mao and declared as a national sport. It is still the biggest amateur sport in China, with approximately 300 million players. No surprise that from this huge pool of players, they can choose the best who become champions of the world. Like Ma Long who is the current world and Olympic champion in the men’s singles or Ding Ning who is a three-time women world champion. Chinese players are favorites to win in the next Olympic Games as well in 2021 Tokyo.
Basketball has been popular in China for a long time, it was introduced in the country in 1896. It kept its status even during the cultural revolution when everything from the Western culture was forbidden. The Chinese national basketball team has won 16 titles in the FIBA Asia Cup. In the 2000s several Chinese players have been signed to play in the NBA. Yao Ming is one of the most famous players, who played for Houston Rockets and was named five times in the NBA All-Star team.
There are around 300 million active players right now, who also love to watch basketball, especially the NBA. China is the largest market for the American basketball league. 190 million people watched the 2017 NBA final on their mobiles. Though there has been some tension recently between the Chinese and American basketball organizations in connection with Hong Kong, surely Chinese fans can’t wait to watch the NBA games.
Football has started to become more popular in the last few years. The aim is the opening of 50,000 football academies by 2025. Though the Chinese Football Association was organized in 1949, the national team hasn’t achieved any big success so far. The team is only in 76th place at the moment in the FIFA world ranking. The women’s team is in a much better 15th place. But of course the leaders of the country want to improve on these results.
The Chinese top tier football, the Chinese Super League has changed a lot in the last few years. Mostly thanks to the arrival of former foreign football stars like Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka, Oscar or Carlos Tevez. Foreign coaches appeared at the biggest teams. Like Marcello Lippi at Guangzhou Evergrande, which has the most titles in the league. Though professional football is on hold at the moment, odds should be available on online sportsbooks in China for the games as soon as they continue.
Running has also gained wide popularity in China in recent years, with 20 million people practicing some form of it. The number of marathon runners can also reach 1 million in the country. It also means lots of marathon races. There was a plan of 800 races to be held this year, which probably won’t be possible now. But it can still continue to be a famous sport and bring success to China. In the last Olympic Games in Rio China won the gold in both the men’s and women’s 20km walking. But surely we will see more Chinese runners in the top as well soon.
Beside running, walking is a famous way of a daily activity for regular people. Just like going to different fitness clubs. Companies are also seeing the new possibilities and targeting the Chinese market. And middle class Chinese are happy to spend more on running shoes and other accessories.
5. Winter sports
After Beijing won the right to hold the next Winter Olympics in 2022, winter sports got into focus. In some winter sports Chinese athletes have already achieved great successes. Like Chinese pairs in figure skating or short track speed skaters. They are the most successful athletes in winter sports with 10 gold medals from previous Olympics. Online gambling sites in China are also predicting more Chinese top results in these sports.
But with the country hosting the next Olympic Games, interest has grown for other winter sports, like skiing and snowboarding as well. Around 650 ski resorts are in operation with almost 12 million people skiing at least once in a year. Of course these numbers are only the beginning. The government is planning to build 650 skating rinks and 800 ski resorts by 2022. And they want to increase the number of people in winter sports to 300 million people.