Yao Ming

Yi Jianlian
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China becomes ninth team in Olympic men’s basketball field

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China is set to play in its ninth straight Olympic men’s basketball tournament after beating the Philippines 78-67 in the FIBA Asia Championship on Saturday.

The Chinese were guided by former NBA power forward Yi Jianlian, a three-time Olympian who led the team in scoring and rebounding at the last Olympics. Yi scored 11 points with 15 rebounds Saturday.

Yi and company kept the Philippines, with former NBA forward Andray Blatche, from qualifying for the Olympics for the first time since 1972. Blatche scored a team-leading 17 points.

China went 0-5 at London 2012, failing to win a game at an Olympics for the first time since 1992. Now-retired Yao Ming led the team in 2000, 2004 and 2008, but the nation has never reached the Olympic semifinals.

The 2016 Olympic men’s basketball field:

Brazil — Host nation
U.S. — 2014 World champion
Australia — Oceania champion
Nigeria — Africa champion
Argentina — Americas finalist
Venezuela — Americas finalist
Spain — Europe finalist
Lithuania — Europe finalist
China — Asia champion
Three winners of three July global, last-chance qualifying tournaments

The three last-chance qualifying tournament fields will be six nations each, including three to-be-named, wild-card nations, plus these 15 nations:

Serbia — 2014 World silver medalist
France 
— 2014 World bronze medalist
Greece — last Olympics: 2008
Italy — last Olympics: 2004
Czech Republic — last Olympics: Never
Puerto Rico — last Olympics: 2004
Canada — last Olympics: 2000
Mexico — last Olympics: 1976
Iran — last Olympics: 2008
Japan — last Olympics: 1976
Philippines — last Olympics: 1972
Tunisia — only Olympic appearance was 2012
Angola — last Olympics: 2008
Senegal — last Olympics: 1980
New Zealand — last Olympics: 2004

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Beijing to host 2022 Winter Olympics; first city to hold Summer and Winter Games

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Beijing will host the 2022 Winter Olympics, becoming the first city to hold a Summer Games and a Winter Games, after beating Almaty, Kazakhstan, in an International Olympic Committee members vote Friday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Beijing received 44 votes to Almaty’s 40.

“Just as with the Beijing 2008 Summer Games, the Olympic family has put its faith in Beijing again to deliver the athlete-centred, sustainable and economical Games we have promised,” the Beijing bid committee said in a statement. “This will be a memorable event at the foot of the Great Wall for the whole Olympic family, the athletes and the spectators that will further enhance the tremendous potential to grow winter sports in our country, in Asia and around the world.”

Beijing, site of the 2008 Olympics, plans to spread 2022 Olympic events across three clusters over 100 miles and use the Bird’s Nest stadium for Opening and Closing Ceremonies, as it did seven years ago. One of the lowest-latitude Winter Olympic hosts will supplement natural snow with man-made snow.

The Water Cube, where Michael Phelps won eight gold medals in 2008, will become the Ice Cube, used for curling.

It will mark the third straight Olympics in East Asia, following the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Almaty hoped to bring the Olympics to Kazakhstan for the first time and to the smallest nation by population since Athens 2004 (and Lillehammer 1994 for the Winter Games).

Also Friday, the 2020 Winter Youth Olympics were awarded to Lausanne, Switzerland, over Brasov, Romania, in an IOC members vote.

Watch Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic promo video

Both 2022 Winter Olympic bids made presentations to IOC members earlier Friday, starting with Almaty. The Kazakh bid team, which included Sochi Olympic bronze medalist figure skater Denis Ten, emphasized its bid’s advantages over Beijing — lots and lots of natural snow and a compact venue plan.

“Real snow,” “a winter wonderland” and “frostbite” were uttered.

All proposed venues were within a 30km radius of the Olympic Village, a statistic repeated in the presentation.

“No bus, train or car rides for hours,” Almaty bid vice chairman Andrey Kryukov said. “No one endures many hours just to enjoy snow and ice events in a single day.”

Almaty pointed out that it would become the first Central Asian nation to host an Olympics.

“Historic moment as a finalist,” Ten said. “A tremendous victory just by being here.”

Kazakhstan prime minister Karim Massimov delivered Almaty’s final speech, asking IOC members to “have faith in us.”

“Perhaps because we are unknown to most of you, some might consider us a risky choice,” he said, adding that all bid cities have a level of risk before concluding with, “Almaty is not a risky choice. We are a golden opportunity. We are a golden opportunity to prove that smaller, advancing nations can successfully host the Winter Games.”

Beijing came next, armed with a delegation including 7-foot, 6-inch retired basketball star Yao Ming, who also played an ice hockey goalie in a recorded promotional video. Its message often reminded IOC members of the city’s successful 2008 Olympic Games.

“China is a longtime friend and partner of the Olympic movement,” said China Olympic Committee vice president Yu Zaiqing, also an IOC vice president. “You trusted us then [in 2008], and we delivered on every expectation. We hope you will trust us now.”

The Beijing team said hosting the Winter Games would encourage 300 million Chinese to participate in ice and snow sports, building a foundation for the future of the world’s most populous nation.

It also addressed concerns. Beijing mayor Wang Anshun said there’s a $130 billion plan to enhance air quality for a “clean energy future.”

The bid’s venue plan spreads across some 100 miles, but Wang said a not-yet-finished high-speed train would take riders from venue to venue in as little as 20 minutes (and as much as 50 minutes, a promo video said last year).

Beijing’s bid would require man-made snow, but speakers said more than half of the country has below-freezing temperatures, the whole country has more than 500 ski resorts and Beijing has 17 ice rinks.

“Beijing 2022 is a Games about the future of winter sport,” Yu said. “We hope it will have a future of millions of new fans, a future of new sponsors, partners, a future of new athletes, opportunities.”

The 2024 Olympic host will be voted on in 2017. Budapest, Hamburg, Paris, Rome and a U.S. city are stated bidders so far.

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Yao Ming reflects on Beijing 2008 at Youth Olympics (video)

Yao Ming, Lewis Johnson
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Yao Ming has been quite visible at the Youth Olympics, and not just because he’s one of the tallest Olympians ever.

The Chinese basketball star toured Nanjing as a Youth Olympic ambassador. He stopped for a sitdown chat with Lewis Johnson to look back on his Olympic experience and update on what he’s been doing since retiring in 2011.

Yao said he’s back in college to finish his studies in economic management, with one year left to get a degree.

“A different story now compared to my sports days,” he said. “A lot of paperwork. My neck is a little bit sore.”

He also said seeing the teenage athletes at the Games reminded him of childhood travel.

“Some people maybe for the first time are outside of their country,” Yao said. “I remember my first time outside of the country at 17 years old, heading to Paris. It’s a big change. It’s a big step and also changed a lot for my view.”

Finally, Johnson handed Yao a memorable image from the 2008 Beijing Olympic Opening Ceremony, when Yao led the host nation into the Bird’s Nest with Lin Hao, a 9-year-old survivor of that year’s Sichuan earthquake.

“It’s a lot of emotion,” Yao said, reflecting. “The kid, he saved two of his classmates after the earthquake happened. You can see the scar on his head right there. What kind of heart he had right at this age. … That represents the future of China.”

NBCSN coverage of the Youth Olympics continues Wednesday (7-8 p.m. ET) and concludes Thursday with the Closing Ceremony (6:30-8).

Youth Olympics broadcast schedule