Mon, October 25, 2010
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China has huge ice hockey potential

2010-10-25 02:24:10 GMT2010-10-25 10:24:10 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

ACAPULCO, Mexico, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) -- China has a huge potential for developing ice hockey as a sport, Martin Benko, a Slovak businessman who will travel to the nation next year with a series of European experts on the sport, said in a Xinhua interview on Saturday.

"We are preparing a master plan right now," said Benko, who was the Slovak Olympic Committee's director general and also served on the European Olympic Committee executive board.

"China already has ice hocky clubs in Shanghai and Beijing. It has the potential to be a very good sport."

Benko spoke to Xinhua on the sidelines of the first convention of National Olympic Committees (NOCs) and sports ministers.

He added that he was already canvassing hockey experts from Germany, Switzerland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Finland.

Ice hockey should be attractive to younger people in China because it is a pacy contact sport, argued Benko, a former ice hockey and tennis star in his home nation.

"It is also good business," he said. "The rinks could be used by the public for entertainment," he added.

Benko said that he had already sought information on setting up leagues from Russia and Canada, which have thriving privately run competitions, and that he is preparing case studies to take to existing clubs.

He added that China has shown evidence of growing sports development including infrastructure and training that went beyond the efforts made for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Saturday's convention, which brings together 205 NOC presidents and 103 ministers of sport, was called to seek ways to improve cooperation between NOCs and governments.

The opening session featured speeches from Mario Vazquez Rana, the president of the Association of NOCs; Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC); and Colin Moynihan, the president of the British Olympic Association.

During his speech, Rogge emphasized governments' role in making quality sport possible via education and infrastructure and in fighting doping and illegal betting.

"I am certain that the debates will be fruitful and will strengthen the links that we already have," Rogge added.

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