November 13 - A campaign, Judo Educational Journey Through China, has reached the famous Great Wall after covering more than 1,000 kilometres and passing through six major cities.
The unique programme launched by International Judo Federation (IJF) President Marius Vizer at the conclusion of the Qingdao Grand Prix on November 2 aims to explore the enormous potential of judo within China and promote the sport to as much of the country's 1.3 billion population as possible ahead of the Summer Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing next year.
During the first stage of the tour, run in partnership with the Chinese Judo Association (CJA), a number of top Chinese judoka along with IJF officials conducted 15 practical workshops at schools, universities, clubs, training centres and public places across the cities of Qingdao, Zibo, Binzhou, Jinan, Tianjing and Beijing.
Among the Chinese stars taking part were Olympic and world champion Tong Wen, double Olympic gold medallist Xian Dongmei, Olympic silver medal winners Liu Xia, Xu Lili and Li Shufang, as well as World Judo Masters gold medallist Yu Song.
"The tour offered me the opportunity to discover a new dimension of my beloved sport," said Wen.
"For many years, I have been focusing on the top level, but now I can see that judo is more than a sport, it is an educational tool and even if I have not put an end to my sporting career, I already see new opportunities for the future.
"I want to put my image at the service of the development of judo in China, but also in the world."
The tour focused on promoting judo and the sports values and the education values of judo which were emphasised in the school workshops.
The practical sessions with the children were led by IJF experts to show the potential of the sport as an educational tool, while children were able to interact with champions and develop an understanding of the Olympic values ahead of China's hosting of Nanjing 2014.
"The past 10 days have created an incredible envy to push judo forward and to develop all its dimensions," said CJA general secretary, Xiong Fengshan.
"China has a great potential and we need to coordinate the sports and educational dimensions of judo.
"Thanks to the IJF, its President Mr Marius Vizer, and its experts, we have put a lot of energy to make this journey a great success.
"We can all be very proud.
"I would like also to thank the media which were present throughout the Educational Journey Through China.
"We want to develop judo in China, and we want to help the development of its values worldwide."
The IJF was represented on the journey by education and coaching director Mohamed Meridja, media director Nicolas Messner and former world champion, Olympic bronze medallist and member of the IJF Judo for Children Commission, Dutchman Ruben Houkes.
"The potential of judo in China is enormous," said Beijing 2008 bronze medallist Houkes.
"You can see it and feel it.
"However, there is work to do.
"The tour has shown me that the energy of the Chinese federation to develop judo as a mass participation sport is great.
"The development will take time.
"The support of the top athletes is great and they also want do help.
"I think that is very important.
"We need the support, the effort, the popularity of the athletes.
"They are the role models.
"Not only for medals and success, but especially for the skills for life that judo brought to them."
The second stage of the Judo Educational Journey Through China is set to take place in the early months of next year and will end in Nanjing, where the Youth Olympic Games run from August 16 to 28.
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November 2013: New initiative launched in China to promote judo