With one year to go until the start of the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games, we take a look at the impact that the Nanjing 2014 edition has had on hockey in China
In one year the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games will get underway in Argentina’s dazzling capital city. The preparations for what will surely be a fantastic event in South America are very much in full swing, with the fast and furious Hockey5s format once again taking centre stage after it’s thrilling, eye-catching debut at the Nanjing 2014 edition, where Australia men and China women emerged victorious.
The Hockey5s competition made quite an impact in Nanjing, a fact proven by the passion and enthusiasm to retain to the format for next year’s competition in Buenos Aires. It is easy to forget that the initial decision to use Hockey5s in Nanjing raised some eyebrows, but the overwhelmingly positive response to the competition from players, fans, broadcast and even the International Olympic Committee made it a genuine hit at the Games.
"The number of registered players in China has increased by over 50% in recent years"
The successful introduction of Hockey5s at such an important sporting showpiece provided plenty of evidence of the bright future that this format has - it will surely be one of the sports to watch next year in Buenos Aires. However, three years after the conclusion of the 2014 edition in Nanjing, it is also worth examining the legacy that the Youth Olympic Games has had on hockey in China.
Back in 2007, way before the Nanjing event and even the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, the Chinese Hockey Association launched a project to construct the National Hockey Talent Reserve Base.
Initially, there were 15 bases located in nine provinces within China, a figure which has grown to a remarkable 72 bases in 15 provinces. The number of registered players in China has increased by over 50% in recent years, while the number of playing surfaces, both for 11-aside and the smaller surfaces suitable for Hockey5s, has also swelled considerably in a bid to accommodate this growth in athlete numbers. Back in 2007, there was one full size pitch and 20 smaller pitches. Ten years later there are 13 full size pitches and a whopping 58 pitches suitable for Hockey5s.
In 2015, the Chinese Hockey Association made two significant moves in response to the impact of the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games. Due to the rising number of participants, the Association decided to introduce an under-10s competition for the first time in its history. In another bold move, the national under-15 Championship was switched from the standard format of the game to Hockey5s, indicating a firm belief in the format as crucially important for the long-term development of China’s future hockey superstars.
As for the Youth Olympic Games Sports Park in Nanjing, the infrastructure continues to be put to very good use. The Hockey venue is used as one of the Talent Reserve Bases for the training and education for talented young athletes.
As part of Nanjing’s desire to be a centre of world sport, the city has used the development and the vast amount of event knowledge gained to host the World Roller Speed Skating Championships in 2016, and has won the right to host the 2018 Badminton World Championships and some of the group stages of the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
The legacy of Nanjing is very much at the heart of this, and it is clearly an exciting time in China not just for hockey but for top level sport in general in China.
For more information about the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games, you can visit the official website by clicking here. To read more about the inclusion of Hockey 5s at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games, click here.