(Photo: © FIH)

The FIH was invited to appoint 4 Neutral Umpires to officiate at the Chinese National Games in the Men’s and Women’s Hockey competitions.

The Umpires in the Men’s event, Satinder Kumar (IND), Kim Hong Lae (KOR), Raghu Prasad (IND) and Peter Wright (RSA) report on their Chinese ‘experience’.

No one had any indication as to the magnitude of this event. We had all expected a competition with only Men’s and Women’s hockey, but in fact were part of the 11th Chinese National Games in Jinan, which hosted almost 11 000 athletes (37 less than participated in the Beijing Olympic Games).

There were 3 dedicated TV channels with all the sports being broadcast throughout the day and night.

All sports were represented at the Games with the highlight being the Athletics which was hosted in the magnificent 90 000 seater main stadium.

Jinan is said to have spent $ 20 billion on the Games, as evidenced by the infrastructure in stadiums, roads and transport around the event.

The Hockey Competition was held in the Shangdong Sports Bureau stadium, a newly constructed two pitch stadium, built to the highest standards.

Match day on day 1 saw more police, military and army personal than spectators at the hockey, with everyone having to go through metal detectors and x-ray before being able to enter the stadium.

All the Officials were given clothing both for the matches and official functions.

The competition consisted of 10 teams, with 4 clear semi final contenders, so the early games were quite one sided with some 10-0 victories. In Chinese hockey, once the game reaches this score it is stopped, so we had some early afternoon finishes.

When the home team played, spectators were bussed into the stadium to cheer their team on. The Shangdong province host’s team is still developing, so the locals adopted the Chinese Mongolian team as their own.

The real competition started on the last day of the pool matches when the teams fought out for top position in the pool, which would hopefully mean the easier semi-final match.

On the rest day we were taken to see the Laughing Buddha, on the hillside outside Jinan.

Built in the late 1990’s from donations from the inhabitants of Jinan, the gold plated relic is an icon of Jinan.

The semi finals were a tense affair, played in the presence of the President of the CHA. There is huge prize money on offer to the winning teams.

The teams from Mongolian China and Liaoning advanced to the Gold Medal match. Before a huge crowd of supporters they played a tight encounter with Liaoning, running out winners 3-1 and sealing their victory with the decider in the last minute of the match.

The bronze medal went to Gansu who outwitted Guangdong 6-5 where no side ever held the lead for long.

So with the Medal Ceremony complete, we all departed for our flights home. The Chinese Hockey Association are to be congratulated for their hospitality, having gone out of their way to look after us and ensure all our needs were met during the Tournament.

We are all delighted to have been appointed to umpire at the 11th Chinese National Games, and look forward to returning to China again in the future.