A stadium for the 13th Chinese National Games in Tianjin [Photo: enorth.com.cn]
Aiming at strengthening national cohesion through athletic exchange, China's top sports body is welcoming overseas athletes with Chinese ancestry to compete at the National Games.
The General Administration of Sport of China announced on Wednesday that the 13th National Games in Tianjin, to be held from Aug 27 to Sept 8, will accept registration from foreign athletes of Chinese origin or ancestry, as well as Chinese citizens living abroad, for the first time in the 58-year history of the quadrennial event. Chinese previously could not register from abroad.
Of the 31 sports at the games, 26 will be open for overseas Chinese to compete, including swimming, track and field, table tennis and badminton, according to the administration's Athletic Department.
"Providing the opportunity for athletes from home and abroad to compete head-to-head and to share experiences in athletic development will help improve the level on both sides and increase emotional ties," said Li Yingchuan, China's vice-minister of sport.
Because of tough domestic competition for international appearances in China's strong sports, like table tennis and badminton, some elite China-born athletes have moved overseas to represent other countries after changing nationalities.
Dubbed the "foreign legion" by Chinese media, their top-level international matches against Chinese athletes are always eye-catching.
The National Games will provide yet another stage for the intriguing battle while attracting these former Chinese and their descendants back to their native soil for exchanges, said Liu Xiaonong, director of the Athletic Department.
"Some of them have stayed in good shape and trained consistently. It will be intensive competition that benefits athletes from both sides," Liu said.
The National Games organizing committee is working on the registration procedure, qualification system and competition format for overseas Chinese to take part. Details will be published on the official website of Chinese Olympic Committee, olympic.cn, once finalized, Liu said.