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'Opening Doors through Sport'
    2008-04-15 15:13:05     chinadaily.com.cn

By Brendan John Worrell (chinadaily.com.cn)

Australian PM Rudd speaking at the Australian Chamber of Commerce, Beijing. [Photo:chinadaily.com.cn/ by Brendan John Worrell]

As international leaders, business world heavyweights and environmental experts made their way to  the Boao Forum for Asia annual meeting on the weekend, another troop of traveling ambassadors were doing their part to improve ties between nations.

Almost 130 young basketballers from Darwin, Australia were in Haikou for a week challenging local teams in friendly games to foster their sister city relationship between these two tropical locations.

For the majority of youngsters it was their first time to China and just as they headed out from Meilan airport to fly to Singapore, their Chinese-speaking Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was making his way into town to attend Boao.

The previous night at a dinner held by the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Beijing, Rudd spoke of his desire to further expand the bonds between the two nations, reiterating China's quest to foster a "harmonious world" and his hopes to see it becoming more of a "global stakeholder".

And amid the ruckus regarding the Olympic torch relay demonstrations earlier in the week, it seems a good focal point to help us get back to how sports unites us as people.

These young Darwinites will learn that even on a fairly small island like Hainan there are several minority groups like the Li and Miao, in addition to the majority the Han ethnic group. Many foreigners are not aware there are over 50 different ethnic groups that comprise modern China.

The local Haikou kids may have also discovered that in a city like Darwin there too are several ethnic groups, including indigenous peoples and that Australia, like China, is also land of diversity. Last year demonstrations erupted in violence on Sydney's Bondi Beach as a result of ethnic tension. The Sydney Olympics were also witness to protests from Australia's indigenous groups calling for greater human rights.

Perhaps one of the defining moments of the Sydney Olympics was the victory of local indigenous athlete Cathy Freeman in the women's 400m event. Her triumph came after the race when she chose to parade with both the Australian Indigenous and Commonwealth of Australia flags. Her statement of unity brought tears to many and sent pangs of togetherness throughout the land.

In a game like basketball, both cities also share development issues. At present Darwin is considering a proposal for a 4,000-seat stadium and a possible National Basketball League, which would have great benefits to the wider community, economically and socially. For Haikou city, university and sporting department officials are also compelled to capitalize on the growing popularity of this sport and boost local infrastructure so Haikou can one day field a team in the Chinese National University league and possibly one day a team in the CBA, China's version of the NBA.

Through sport and healthy competition, bridges are being built. Think of Chinese President Hu Jintao's Countryside Plan to build basketball courts nationwide as part of a public health scheme announced last April to nurture the game and better life outcomes among China's rural poor. In a similar way in Australia where indigenous groups are battling with development issues, sport and the implementation of infrastructure nurturing local competitions has offered youngsters and communities' hope.

Whether in the back streets of Darwin or the middle school campuses of Haikou, a healthy love of sport, and in this case basketball, and the surrounding culture of hip hop fashion and music, sees young kids expressing themselves globally, reaching out, striving towards their dreams.

E-mail: brendanjohnworrell@hotmail.com



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