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Since 1984, there have been nine Summer Olympic Games, and the Chinese Men’s gymnasts have won six medals (3 Gold, 2 Silver, and 1 Bronze). Quite a feat for a country that had not previously been competitive in the sport.
The Men’s success – for China’s Women also to a lesser result – occurred after the government decided to expend money and free up time for a country gymnast initiative. The results in 32-years, judging by the Olympics, have been spectacular, vaulting China to the forefront of the sport, the nation becoming competitive with top teams from Japan and the United States.
The Chinese have now decided that rugby (along with soccer football) will receive the same, dedicated attention. The country’s goal is to number one-million rugby players by 2022, men and women, girls and boys. Rugby is the official sport of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
Alisports, the sports arm of the online retail giant Alibaba, is donating $100 million to rugby over the next ten-years. Through a “Get Into Rugby” initiative, 10,000 universities will adopt the sport. Further, the country’s target is to train 30,000 coaches, and produce 15,000 match officials in the short-term.
A shortcut to popularizing rugby is currently ongoing through Men’s Sevens, an easier route onto the world’s stage than fifteens. China compete annually at the Hong Kong 7s event, where they once won a Bowl title.
The China Men’s Sevens will make their US debut on November 4 and 5 at the inaugural Silicon Valley Sevens tournament in San Jose, California.
Rugby as a word in Chinese translates to “English style olive ball.” Perhaps, when a million plus are playing union, the government will agree to a name change.