Chinese Sports Documentary Gains Global Recognition

Zhenyu LiContributor IIISeptember 25, 2012

China's first ever English-language Chinese sports documentary series — Beyond Gold (Webpage on People's Daily Online)
China's first ever English-language Chinese sports documentary series — Beyond Gold (Webpage on People's Daily Online)

When it comes to sports, China has always been a major player on the global field and has had the unique privilege of standing next to, or even above, the No.1 sports power — the United States on the Olympic podium.

However, unlike in the United States, where its sports greatness is well chronicled, in abundance and with engaging narrative, in the form of documentary film, quality sports documentaries in China are scarce.

In fact, the world has never seen a comprehensive, Western-oriented documentary series focusing on China's sporting scene. The stories of China's sports glory has until now remained unknown.

Now, after registering its most successful Olympic outing in history with 38 golds, 27 silvers and 23 bronzes, China takes a further step forward in producing the first-ever English-language Chinese sports documentary series — Beyond Gold: The Golden Stories from China's Sports Field.

Presented by the People's Daily Online, China's most authoritative news site, the Beyond Gold series is arguably, by far, the most comprehensive English-language Chinese sports documentary series one could ever find.

The documentary series covers almost all of the major sports in China and provides, for Western audiences, an inside look at China's sporting scene.

"Beyond Gold opens a window into the Chinese sports experience," wrote Evan Osnos, a Pulitzer Prize winner and the China-based writer for The New Yorker.  

"I think it's a very important step forward for the global sports community," said Dr. Ching-Kuo Wu, a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), after reviewing the Beyond Gold pages and documentaries.

"I really want to give my sincere compliment to the People's Daily Online (the organization that produced the series)."

"I think it's an excellent idea to deliver the sport-by-sport knowledge in such an appealing fashion," the President of the International Boxing Association (AIBA) went on to say.

"I hope many young people would look at People's Daily Online and watch this program. They will learn a lot from those athletes and get inspired by the program."

"This program certainly encourages more young people, not only to get involved in sports, but also to learn some important values for their life," Dr. Wu remarked.

Bob Arum, one of the world's most successful businessmen in sports community, also sang high praise for the People's Daily Online's multimedia works.

"It's a very excellent work. The stories, the videos and the Web pages the site put together, it's an eye opener, really one of a kind," said Arum, who has built such superstars as Manny Pacquiao and Oscar De La Hoya from scratch.

"It's the best I've seen from China. People's Daily Online should be complimented for producing such a masterpiece."

John Duggan, First Vice President of the World Boxing Organization (WBO), spent several days watching the documentaries on the People's Daily Online.

"I really enjoyed this series," said Duggan. "It was well-written and beautifully made. I think People's Daily Online did a very good job. Very well done."

Wei Lin, one of China's most accomplished TV producers, was impressed after watching the films.

"This is the first time I saw a documentary series that is presented by the People's Daily Online, and I am impressed," said Lin, who has produced quite a number of awarding-winning TV series, including The Hero Unknown, Yong Zheng Dynasty and Grand Mansion Gate.

"From the production standpoint, the films are concise, a trait that is suitable for online distribution. They are enticing in terms of both form and content."

Apart from international personages and industry authorities, high-profile Chinese officials also spoke well of the documentary series.

"The documentary work by People's Daily Online plays a positive role in conveying the 'China voice' to the world and helping more overseas citizens understand a true China," said Ping Huang, Director-General of the Department of Consular Affairs of the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Fumin Liu, Director-General of the Department of Finance of the General Administration of Sport of China, the biggest boss in China's sports industry, held a similar view.

"Sport is a language without borders, a means to showcase a nation's soft power. China's sports glory is subjectively portrayed in the documentary series," Liu commented. "Besides, the work is presented in a concise fashion and with depth." 

"Conveying the Chinese spirit in an international language perfectly, the Beyond Gold series will greatly help the world have a better overall understanding of China," said Ri Cao, Director of CCTV's International News Department.

While the Beyond Gold series has received a wealth of positive feedback, some critics argued that the series is not as comprehensive, and sports such as track and field, golf and racing are not included in the series.

As of right now, five major sports — namely basketball, soccer, tennis, table tennis and boxing, and two sports superstars — Ming Yao and Na Li, were profiled in the Beyond Gold series.

Over time, more content, including documentaries about martial arts, golf and a number of Chinese sports legends, will be incorporated into the series, a person who has direct contact with the People's Daily Online disclosed.

"I truly hope the People's Daily Online could add more sports to the documentary series and make it a classic," Fumin Liu said.

* * *

Zhenyu Li is a contributing columnist at Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.