Kuala Lumpur, July 29 With two days to go before the International Olympic Committee (IOC) decides on the 2022 Winter Olympics host city, Yao Ming and Song Andong, the two best known Chinese sportsmen, said they can't wait for the result.
"I was very excited. It's a dream of any athlete to compete in Olympics and it's a special honour doing that in your home country and the city you grow up," said Song, a teenager born in Beijing who became the first Chinese-born player to be drafted into the National Hockey League (NHL) held in the United States and Canada.
"There is a big population behind me and the younger generation of kids is growing up. They can participate in the sport. That's how we are going to develop the sport as a whole and we will grow into one of the powerhouses hopefully."
Song was confident that Chinese ice hockey would become stronger.
"It's not impossible with practical effort and hard work, it's something you can achieve," said Song when asked about whether the Chinese Hockey League could catch up with NHL one day.
As another ambassador of Beijing 2022, Yao Ming expressed the same desire and enthusiasm to bring the Winter Olympics to the most populous country in the world.
"Legacy is everything," said Yao about how the 2008 Games impacted Beijing. "Beijing 2008 allowed us to experience Olympic spirit. 2022 gives us a chance to carry on the spirit and reach another level and it is equal to everyone."
Yao regarded the 2008 Games as a character-changing milestone for Chinese people.
"Before that, everybody focused on how many golds we will have and how many medals we get on the paper. After that people started to pursue their personal life and more personality," said Yao.
As the most successful Chinese basketball player in the National Basketball Association (NBA), Yao was seen as a role model by Song, an ice hockey player who carries the national hope of becoming Yao Ming in ice hockey.
"Yao Ming has always been a role model of mine," said 18-year-old Song. "What he has done in his career and what he has done to basketball in China is what I try to reach for. He is really motivated and really got basketball surge in China and I'm trying to do the same thing."Published 30 Jul 2015, 14:35 IST