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Analysts said the appointment of Basketball Hall of Famer Yao Ming as the president of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) represents a big step in breaking the association away from the official sports body and a milestone for the country's sports reform.

Yao , member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and former NBA all-star player, was unanimously voted CBA president on Thursday.

Yao, 37, is the first non-government official to take the position. He was elected at the ninth national congress of the association and will be responsible for the association's decision-making, leadership and personnel appointments.

"Previously , officials from the Basketball Management Center under the General Administration of Sport (GAS) were in charge of the CBA. Naming Yao Ming as the president means that the CBA will separate from the management center and begin to operate as an independent association," Su Qun, editor-in-chief of the Basketball Pioneer newspaper, told the Global Times.

"Over the past years, match fixing and corrupt referees have stunted the development of Chinese basketball. The separation means that the CBA will enjoy more freedom in its operations ," said Wang Qi, the manager of the China Sports Industry Group.

Both Su and Wang noted that Yao's international reputation, especially in the US, will serve as a diplomatic tool to help China spread its influence in the country and promote the awareness of Chinese basketball.

As one of the sports icons of China, Yao landed in the NBA in 2002 as a first-draft pick by the Houston Rockets. He played for the Rockets for nine years and featured in NBA All-Star Games eight times.

Yao also led the Chinese national basketball team to the quarterfinals in the Athens and Beijing Olympic Games. He was China's flag-bearer at the home Olympics in 2008.

Bold reforms

"The transition in leadership is just a starting point. In the future , we will unite professional talent in all fields, especially those who work in the government sector, to give full play to their wisdom and experience. We will adopt a different mind-set when considering further reforms, and promote the development of Chinese basketball in innovative ways," Yao told the People's Daily in an exclusive interview.

Specifically , Yao said that the first steps in his reform program will focus on CBA league matches. By operating league matches in a market-oriented way, Yao aims to promote the brand and attract more audiences.

Yao said he hopes to change the way players are recruited for the national team. Previously, the country issued an administrative order to clubs and sports bureaus to select players.

In the future, he plans to show more respect to players and invite them to join the national team so that they could be clearer about their responsibilities.

An insider close to the GAS told news portal sports.163 that Yao may extend the calendar for league matches and shorten the time for national team training. Besides, he may restrict the number of "foreign players" to offer more chances to the local ones. Changes in the referee system and referee committee may be made to ensure fairness.

To avoid conflicts of interest , Yao would sell his shares in the CBA side Shanghai Sharks before next season. Yao played for the club before he went to the NBA in 2002 and bought the team in 2009.

Amid widespread applaud for his appointment, some Chinese basketball fans expressed cautious optimism on the reform, saying that a full separation will be difficult to achieve in the near term and the CBA cannot fully operate independently without the support of the government.

"Yao may need some time to find a balance between commercial operation and cooperation with local authorities," said Su, adding that attracting talents and promoting cooperation between education and sports departments is also of great importance.

"A good athlete may not be a good manager. The reform will take some time , but it has a promising future," said Wang.

The International Olympic Committee will consider taking action against pole vault world champion Yelena Isinbayeva, a Youth Olympics ambassador, after her comments in favor of Russia's new gay law triggered a major controversy last month.

The Russian, who won the world title in Moscow in August , caused a major stir with her comments about homosexuality.

"We will consider this in due time," IOC President Jacques Rogge told reporters when asked whether the Russian athlete was an appropriate ambassador for the Youth Games given her recent comments.

Isinbayeva, a double Olympic champion, had been critical of foreign athletes' reaction to Russia's gay law.

"We consider ourselves, like normal , standard people, we just live boys with women, girls with boys ... it comes from the history," she had said at the time. "I hope the problem won't ruin our Olympic Games in Sochi."

Isinbayeva is also the ceremonial mayor of the Olympic village at the Sochi 2014 winter Games and will be a torchbearer in the relay at the event.

Rogge did not elaborate on what kind of action and when it may be taken against the Russian but ruled out pressing the government further on the matter. Rogge is due to step down on September 10.

"We have received oral and written assurances (from the Russian government)," he said. "We are staging the Games in a sovereign state and the IOC cannot be expected to have an influence in the affairs of a sovereign state.

Critics say the law is one of a string of repressive measures introduced by President Vladimir Putin in the first year of his third presidential term that clamp down on dissent , violate gay rights and restrain non-governmental organizations.

This is not the first time Rogge, who is stepping down after 12 years in charge with a successor to be elected next week, has had to.

Jeu 12 Avr - 11:33 (2018)

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Jeu 12 Avr - 11:33 (2018)
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