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By SHI FUTIAN | China Daily | Updated: 2021-06-12 09:45
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Participants warm up for the 2021 Beijing Half Marathon on April 24. WEI XIAOHAO/CHINA DAILY

China's sports industry booming thanks to effective government policies and swift pandemic response

With China's sports industry continuing to show staggering growth, all the indicators suggest the sector's expansion is a healthy development for both the economy and the nation's physical well-being.

"During the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-20), the development of our sports industry has made historic breakthroughs. The market scales have been growing dramatically, and the industrial structure has been optimized," said Li Yingchuan, a deputy director of the General Administration of Sport of China (GASC), during the China Sports Industry Summit in Shanghai last month.

"The Chinese sports industry now has fresh dynamics, and the emergence of new platforms is raising the bar. The foundation of the industry has reached a new level and the management of the sector is more efficient.

"So the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-25) will be very important to achieve high-quality development to ensure the sports industry is a pillar of national economic growth."

Li stressed that, during the next five years, the growth of the sports industry will be characterized by several major changes-the influence of a new generation of technology, including 5G; increased facilitation of sports consumption; the growth of the outdoor sports sector; and an increased emphasis on consumer services.

The GASC and the National Bureau of Statistics jointly announced in late 2020 that sports-related businesses in China generated around 1.12 trillion yuan (about $173 billion) in revenue in 2019-up 11.6 percent from 2018-contributing to a total industry value of over 2.94 trillion yuan. Total output was 10.9 percent higher than in 2018.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the sports world to hit the pause button, putting huge financial pressure on leagues, clubs and sporting organizations around the globe.

Thanks to China's successful control of the pandemic, professional sports and mass fitness events have gradually returned to everyday life.

Soccer's Chinese Super League was forced to temporarily shut down in February 2020, but returned five months later with behind-closed-doors matches in bio-secure bubbles in Suzhou, Jiangsu province and Dalian, Liaoning province.

Safety was, and remains, a top priority for the league's organizer, the Chinese Football Association, with comprehensive epidemic prevention measures implemented in both host cities.

Players, coaches, referees and key staff members were kept in strict lockdown zones and faced frequent medical checks. With not even a single infection to report by the end of season, the CFA can be proud of its efforts.

A spike in viewing figures came as a bonus. According to the CSL, the average viewership for each of the league's 160 matches in 2020 was 7.74 million, 16.6 percent higher than the 2019 season.

"The COVID-19 pandemic brought huge challenges to the world's sports market, but it also brought changes and new trends," said Bao Mingxiao, professor of Beijing Sport University, during the sports industry summit in Shanghai.

"Under these new conditions, development should be focused on the strategic target of making China a sports powerhouse."

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