Wushu eyes global gains after Youth Olympics inclusion

Members of Romania’s Wushu Kungfu Federation perform during an event organized in Bucharest, capital of Romania, Sept 18, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

‘Chinese kung fu’ to debut as official sport at 2022 Dakar Games in Senegal

Wushu will make its debut as an official sport at the 2022 Dakar Youth Olympics, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) confirmed on Wednesday.

The sport, widely known as Chinese kung fu, will comprise of two men’s and two women’s medal events at Dakar 2022 in Senegal-the first Olympic competition to be staged in Africa, which will take place Oct 22-Nov 9 that year.

The secretary-general of the International Wushu Federation (IWF), Zhang Qiuping, hailed the decision as a sign of the world’s recognition for the martial arts, while the IOC emphasized that wushu’s wide global reach had made it a particularly attractive option.

“The International Wushu Federation has 39 national federations in Africa and 120 million practitioners around the world. Wushu is popular among youth, and it has a good gender balance, so we expect that it will have a very good show in 2022,” said IOC Product Mark Adams.

The IOC has also approved the competition format for wushu, with 48 athletes to battle in four events: men’s and women’s changquan and men’s and women’s tai chi.

In an interview with Xinhua, Zhang described wushu as a treasure of Chinese traditional culture.

He said that the IOC sees wushu as a youth-oriented sport and it is very popular all over the world now, especially in Africa.

Wushu’s inclusion at the Dakar Games in Senegal, therefore, provides the sport with an especially good opportunity to expand more on the continent, Zhang added.

Zhang, who is also president of the Chinese Wushu Association (CWA), hopes that the Olympic recognition can help promote a truer representation of wushu, which is sometimes misunderstood as purely a combat sport.

“In the promotion of Wushu, we emphasize that it is not for fighting but for fitness,” said Zhang.

“No matter who is competing, opponents always bow toward each other at the beginning and end of a bout, which is the embodiment of wushu’s philosophy and spirit.

“The aim of wushu is to prevent the use of force.”

Wushu, which featured at the All-Africa Youth Games in 2018, has had to wait patiently for its Olympic breakthrough.

The IWF first submitted an application for inclusion to the IOC in 2001, followed by two more failed bids in 2008 and 2011.

The first two applications were rejected by the IOC at the initial stage. The third application in 2011 made it to the final round of voting for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics but fell agonizingly short and missed out again.

Wushu’s cause, however, was greatly aided by its appearance as an exhibition sport at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2014 Nanjing Youth Olympics.

Zhang said that, in preparation for Dakar 2022, much work now needs to be carried out by the Olympic committees of various countries and regions.

“The 2022 inclusion demands higher technical requirements of the International Wushu Federation,” he said.

“Next, we should further reform the competition rules and performance level of wushu according to Olympic standards.

“So we will soon launch new international classification criteria for young people, and based on these elements, we will design more routines that young people will like.”

With deep roots in the country’s cultural and spiritual traditions, wushu elegantly unites the body and mind-making it one of China’s most popular cultural exports.

Thanks in large part to the promotional efforts of the IWF and CWA, wushu has gained a diverse following totaling about 120 million worldwide, with young people especially drawn to its mix of athletic and philosophical elements.

Now, China hopes official Olympic recognition will accelerate wushu’s internationalization.

Last year, China proposed building the nation into a wushu powerhouse, and prioritized efforts to have wushu “enter the Olympic Games as soon as possible”.

This week’s announcement brings China another step closer to that goal.

Over the years, the IWF has carried out a lot of international promotion work with strong support from the State General Administration of Sport of China.

The administration not only provides technical support to national wushu federations, regularly sending experts to these countries and regions to supplement their training camps, but also provides a large number of wushu equipment free of charge.

Every year, many local groups are sent abroad to stage performances and shows, striving to improve the influence of wushu overseas.

Last month, an IOC executive board meeting approved the addition of breaking (aka breakdancing), skateboarding, rock climbing, surfing and karate for the 2022 Youth Games in Dakar, and said that it would continue to evaluate the possibility of adding wushu, with Wednesday’s announcement completing the process.


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