With Olympic visas already in force, it’s clear we’re in the final run-up to the Sochi Olympics. But as one cycle nears completion, another one is just starting. The quest to host the 2022 Winter Olympics has begun with six bids from Europe and Asia – including a Chinese bid from Beijing & Zhangjiakou – competing in a fascinating battle between traditional and developing winter sports markets.
First it was David Beckham, now it’s the entire English Premier League. After Becks made three visits to China this year
to make money as a special ambassador for the Chinese Super League, a deal has been signed between the English Premier League and the Chinese Super League (CSL), to coincide with UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s current trip to China.
Sun Yang is undoubtedly one of China’s top sports stars, in a bracket with tennis pioneer Li Na and perhaps badminton king Lin Dan as well. His commercial potential is huge, but he is his own worst enemy right now. Whereas Li’s image as a rebel, breaking free from the shackles of the state system, is not quite as the western media would have you believe, her conflicts with authority have in many ways added to her popularity – at least with the Chinese public, if not the domestic media.
The growth in women’s tennis has been one of the great China stories – in sport or elsewhere – in recent years. Li Na was the obvious catalyst, and in particular her 2011 French Open win, but much of the credit has to go to the WTA’s CEO, Stacey Allaster. This excellent profile by a former colleague of mine tells you everything you need to know about Allaster, who got the top job in women’s tennis in 2009.
Chinese tennis player Wu Di, who made history earlier this year by becoming the first Chinese man to play in a Grand Slam tournament, has qualified for next year’s tournament via the same process – by winning the Asia-Pacific wildcard playoff. The 22-year-old has not, by his own admission, had a good year, but said this gives him focus for the future. Wu also qualified for this year’s tournament, but lost in the first round to Croatia’s Ivan Dodig in four sets.
All promotion is about smoke and mirrors to some extent, and none more so than in boxing promotion. I’ve written before about the massaged truth behind exactly how many are actually watching boxing in China (rather than the “estimated” numbers, which are often then reported as fact).
Zou Shiming moved to 3-0 in his professional career with a one-sided points decision over Mexican Juan Tozcano in their six-round fight in Macau last weekend, but was it a convincing performance or just another tomato can victory? Again, it depends on who you believe. It’s telling, though, that six months into his China venture, Zou’s promoter Bob Arum has already conceded that the pay-per-view model won’t work (at least at the moment). That PPV model, of course, was the big reason why Arum tried to crack the China market in the first place.
Pac-Man, Zou Shiming have early start in Macau
Manny Pacquiao takes on Brandon Rios in Macau at around lunchtime on Sunday China time (to ensure a prime-time Saturday evening audience in the US). There was lots of talk from the Manny camp about how this one is for the Philippines given the recent typhoon, but that will all be forgotten when the bell goes. There was also a predictably entertaining build-up with trainers from each side getting into it in the gym – in other words, typical pre-bout stuff.
San Francisco 49ers legendary quarterback Joe Montana – he of the FOUR Super Bowl wins – was in China recently to promote the NFL. I got the chance to interview him on top of the Great Wall and asked him about the development of the game in China, when Chinese fans can expect to see a preseason game and how soon it will be until a Chinese born-and-bred player makes it in the NFL.
For China Sports Insider Ep.1, click here.
I spoke recently to the Beyond the Waves podcast about Scottish football’s recent deal with Chinese online broadcaster PPTV, and had a lot of fun doing it. The show touches on everything from the likely impact in China (or lack of it) from this deal and soccer watching habits in China to how Celtic’s Irish independence roots mirror separatist feelings in the east.
Sun Zheng is arguably China’s best motor racing prospect right now. There are some much better Chinese drivers than him (like these two for example), but, at 21, Sun has time on his side. On Sunday, Sun became the first Chinese driver to race in the Macau Formula 3 Grand Prix, and drew quite a lot of attention as a result, including this lengthy interview published by CNN. Continue reading