China Sports Today The latest China sports news Yi-haw: Texas, the NBA's most Chinese state After a pair of strong performances with the Dallas Mavericks' D-League team, Yi Jianlian has been <a href="" target="_blank">called back up</a> to play with the big boys. Yi posted double-doubles (17 points, 11 rebounds; 29 points, 13 rebounds). <br /> <br /> The defending champion Mavs are Yi's fourth NBA team in five seasons. He shines in international play, but has never developed into a strong contributor on an NBA team. <br /> <br /> Most stories about the Mavs picking up Yi have rightly pointed out that Del Harris, the coach of D-League squad Texas Legends, coached Yi at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. However, they don't normally point out that Harris played a big role in getting then-16-year-old (cough, cough, okay, 18) Yi on the team and making him a starter –even though he was not yet a starter in the CBA. Harris' success as the national team coach in 2004 has helped make him more famous in China than he is in the United States.<br /> <br /> <br /> With Yi's arrival on the Mavs, Texas officially and firmly becomes the state with the strongest NBA-China connection. All but one of the five Chinese players who have played in the league have come through Texas (only Sun Yue, Lakers and Knicks, has not). The first (Wang Zhizhi, Dallas Mavericks), the most famous (Yao Ming, Houston Rockets), and the first champion (Mengke Bateer, San Antonio Spurs) all balled in Texas. The only other state to host more than one is California, with brief quiet stints for Sun on the Lakers and Wang on the Clippers.<br /> <br /> <br /> Yi in Mavs jersey image: <a href="" target="_blank"></a> Wed, 11 Jan 2012 01:23:00 +0800 Yi Jianlian coming home to play for Guangdong Well, here's one NBA player who should have no trouble making the cultural adjustment to life in the Chinese Basketball Association: Yi Jianlian has reportedly <a href=" " target="_blank">signed to play with his old club</a>, the Guangdong Southern Tigers, league champions the last four seasons in a row. Free agent Yi has played for three different NBA teams in tk years in the league, most recently the Washington Wizards. He comes off of a strong performance at this year's FIBA Asia Championship, where he helped China secure a berth in the 2012 Olympics. <br /> <br /> Yi joins Kenyon Martin, J.R. Smith and Wilson Chandler in making the move to China, but he's a lot more likely than those three to stick around. Earl Clark already left Zhejiang for personal reasons. Complications with his girlfriend's pregnancy is the official reason; not liking the food is a rumored reason; finding the whole situation of life in China and the CBA too much to handle is my amorphous theory.<br /> <br /> With the NBA failing to take steps toward preserving the 2011-12 season yesterday, more agents might looking at China and hoping for something like the <a href="/en/blog/rss/_http//wwwniubballcom/2011/09/j_r_smith_signs_with_zhejiang_chouzhou/index.html" target="_blank">$3 million that J.R. Smith is getting from the Zhejiang Golden Bulls</a>. That would be some consolation to <a href="" target="_blank">distressed Chinese fans </a> who want their NBA, and would definitely promise them some ridiculous plays for the highlight reels.<br /> <br /> For much, much more on the CBA and Chinese basketball in general, check in with Jon Pastuszek at <a href="/en/blog/rss/_http/" target="_blank"></a>. Tue, 11 Oct 2011 23:34:00 +0800 RELIEF: China's men's basketball team win Asian Championships, qualify for London China's men's basketball team avoided the fate of the country's much-maligned football team by winning the FIBA Asia Championship, which qualifies them for the 2012 Olympics in London.<br /> <br /> After beating Jordan 70-69, China now has nearly a year to prepare for the Olympics — a loss against Jordan would have sent them to the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament next July to compete for the three remaining spots with 11 other teams including Puerto Rico, Angola and Asian runner-up Jordan.<br /> <br /> The team's undefeated performance in Wuhan was in stark contrast to its winless showing in a test event in London this summer. There, China showed it has a lot of work to do to compete with the best in the West, with losses to Australia, Serbia, France, Britain and Croatia.<br /> <br /> Yi Jianlian proved once again that, despite a lackluster NBA career so far, he can make a huge impact for China in international play. He was the tournament MVP and notched 25 points, 16 rebounds and six blocks in the final — and he made the crucial free throw that gave China the 70-69 win over Jordan in the gold medal game. No doubt once the NBA is back in business, Yi's FIBA performance will catch the eye of the next poor owner to get excited about the "23"-year-old's "upside."<br /> <br /> Asian Championships were the best remaining chance for China to qualify for London, and mainland fans were fully aware. According to FIBA, China's semifinal against Korea beat out the French Open women's final to become the year's most-watched sporting event on CCTV-5, with <a href="" target="_blank">81 million people</a> tuning in. The game peaked at 35 million viewers —compare that to a peak of 30.5 million watching NBC's broadcast of the NFL season opener, a rematch between last season's Super Bowl contenders.<br /> <br /> For more on the highlights of the tournament, check out this report from Jon Pastuszek at <a href="/en/blog/rss/_http//wwwniubballcom/2011/09/china_enters_asia_championship_quarterfinals_unscathed_undefeated_and_untested/index.html" target="_blank">Niubball, written just before the quarterfinals</a>. He's got some Wang Zhizhi highlights, brief analysis of Yao's color commentary, and the goods on some of the tournament's politics, including the Koreans' complaints about practice time and Qatar's "We're-all-fouling-out-so-there" protest of a FIBA ruling.<br /> <br /> Image of Chinese men's national basketball team: <a href="" target="_blank"></a>p=2# Wed, 28 Sep 2011 03:43:00 +0800 Liu Xiang's got jokes! The biggest surprise to come from last week's 110m hurdles event at IAAF World Championships wasn't the disqualification of the Olympic champion and world record holder, or the performance of upstart 19-year-old American Jason Richardson—it was the discovery that Liu Xiang might actually be sort of a funny guy.<br /> <br /> If you follow Chinese sports, you already know how Liu's race went in Daegu, Korea. He crossed the finish line third, but was upgraded to second after Dayron Robles was disqualified for jostling Liu as the two cleared the last few hurdles. The DQ decision came after the Chinese delegation complained, and although Robles might have been on to something when <a href="" target="_blank">he told the AP</a>, "If I were from another country that had more power, that wouldn't have happened," it's pretty clear that Robles affected Liu's finish (<a href="" target="_blank">video at Universal Sports</a>).<br /> <br /> On returning home to Beijing, <a href="/en/blog/rss/_http//wwwchinadailycomcn/sports/2011_09/02/content_13604293.htm" target="_blank">Liu joked about the controversial race</a>, saying: "Setting a new world record is one of my goals. And the current world record is held by the guy with whom I ran hand-in-hand." <br /> <br /> Okay, so he's no Jackie Chan or even Yao Ming, but this is the funniest thing I can recall Liu ever saying. Between this and that misguided hairstyle he tried out last year, I'm sure the guy has more personality than we know: <br /> <br /> <br /> Liu's comeback is one of few bright spots in athletics for China, which finished a quiet 7th in the medal standings with one gold and four overall medals. <br /> <br /> The lone gold medalist was <a href="" target="_blank">Li Yanfeng</a>, women's discus champion.<br /> <br /> Image: <a href="" target="_blank"></a> Tue, 06 Sep 2011 10:41:00 +0800 Just a little brawl between friends Some very quick thoughts on the <a href="" target="_blank">fight in Thursday's game</a> between the Bayi Rockets of the CBA and the Georgetown Hoyas of the NCAA:<br /> <br /> + This sync of two perspectives on the fight from <a href="" target="_blank">SportsGrid</a> is the best video I've seen of it yet.<br /> <br /> + The security was appalling. Fans got on the court, and the Georgetown team walked out of the gym with no escort. In fact, it seemed that the security were actually moving AWAY from the fight, not toward it.<br /> <br /> + I find it very easy to believe the referees were taking home-team favoritism to an extreme. Bayi is the army team, and enjoys a special status among CBA teams, and I am sure there were lots of people who didn't want to see Bayi lose to a college team in Beijing. Georgetown beat Shanxi Zhongyu in its first friendly of the trip.<br /> <br /> + American universities come on these trips to promote their schools, and the coaches do it hoping that one day they will land a big recruit. For the players, it's an exciting new experience. When I have seen NCAA teams here in the past, the emphasis really is placed on having a good time, learning lessons off the court, bonding as a team, and representing their school and their country with class. I doubt they were under huge pressure from John Thompson III to come away with wins.<br /> <br /> + This is a sad incident that will affect how university teams plan future China trips. They will have to know that the agent in China who sets it all up for them understands how they expect to be taken care of and looks after their security in the gym. Fri, 19 Aug 2011 15:46:00 +0800 FINA Worlds: China improving in swimming, water polo China finished aquatics world championships on a high note last weekend, with 19-year-old Sun Yang snagging the host country's fifth swimming gold and setting a world record in the men's 1,500-meter freestyle. Sun, who also won the 800-meter freestyle event and took silver in the 400, finished in 14:34.14, beating Grant Hackett's 10-year-old record.<br /> <br /> Sun has taken over the spotlight from teammate Zhang Lin, who became China's first male swimming champion when he won the men's 800-meter freestyle in world record time in Rome in 2009. <br /> <br /> China was second in the gold medal count at the FINA championships, hosted in Shanghai in three spectacular brand-new venues at Shanghai Oriental Sports Center. The host took 15 golds to the United States' 17, but had the most overall — 36 medals to the United States' 32. China strengthened its command of the diving, sneaked past Australia for the No. 2 spot in swimming, and were surprise silver-medal winners in women's water polo. <br /> <br /> <b><i>Here's a quick sport-by-sport tally of China's performance:</i></b><br /> <br /> <b>Diving</b><br /> China swept all 10 gold medals in the diving competition, showing to no one's surprise that they have plenty more talent to extend their domination of the sport at the 2012 Olympics in London. China also won four silvers, for 14 total diving medals. <br /> <br /> <b>Water Polo</b><br /> China's women's team were a Cinderella this year, making it all the way to the final before losing to Greece, 9-8. Granted, it was an unusual year in the women's tournament, with none of the quarterfinal games going to the favored team — 2009 champion United States and runner-up Canada were bounced in that round, as were 2008 Olympic champions Netherlands and perennial contender Australia. The Chinese team's second-place finish raises hopes that they can boost the country's low team-sport medal count in the next Olympics. The men's team missed the playoffs after losing all of their games in group play.<br /> <br /> <b>Swimming</b><br /> China was second in both the gold medal (5) and total medal (14) counts, surpassing frequent runner-up Australia but still a far cry from the United States, which had 16 gold medals. Two Chinese swimmers who won gold and set world records at the 2009 championships in Rome, Zhang Lin and Liu Zige, were much quieter this year. Zhang only competed in relays, and Liu took bronze in the women's 200 butterfly, losing to teammate Jiao Liuyang. <br /> <br /> China's gold medalists:<br /> <br /> Women's 200-meter IM: Ye Shiwen, 2:08.90<br /> Women's 100-meter backstroke: Zhao Jing, 59.05<br /> Men's 800-meter freestyle: Sun Yang, 7:38.57<br /> Women's 200-meter butterfly: Jiao Liuyang 2:05.55<br /> Men's 1,500-meter freestyle: Sun Yang, 14:34.14 (WR)<br /> <br /> <b>Open water swimming and synchronized swimming</b><br /> Yes, I know, these two have nothing in common with each other. But China failed to win any gold medals in either. Russia swept the synchro competition with seven golds.<br /> <br /> Sun Yang image: <a href="" target="_blank">Titan Sports</a>photo# Fri, 05 Aug 2011 15:32:00 +0800 Yao's solemn exit leaves a big void in the NBA and Chinese sports In a press conference that's been anticipated by the Chinese sports world for the last two weeks, Yao Ming announced his retirement from basketball this afternoon in Shanghai. The press conference was broadcast all over China, playing live on TV, online, even on the screens in Beijing's subway cars.<br /> <br /> The press conference was hosted by <a href="/en/blog/rss/_http//wwwchinadailycomcn/english/doc/2004_10/18/content_383365.htm" target="_blank">Xu Jicheng</a>, a veteran basketball journalist and commentator who now works for Xinhua. In addition to the nation's top basketball media, Yao had invited to the press conference a cast of the characters from his career — his parents; his old rival Wang Zhizhi, the first player in the NBA; one of his first agents, Lu Hao; Colin Pine, his translator and cultural guide during his first season in Houston. Even David Stern made an appearance, in the form of a taped statement which he can make now that Yao is no longer an NBA employee.<br /> <br /> "Today I am retiring. One door is closed, but others will open," he said to a crowd bigger than I've seen at some CBA games. "Although I am finished with competitive sports, I can't leave basketball. Running the Shanghai Sharks is my next focus. I hope to use all I've learned to better manage this club." <br /> <br /> While a little bit of sadness is part of any retirement press conference, today's affair in Shanghai seemed particularly somber. Although CCTV-5's broadcast played highlights of his career, there didn't seem to be anything like that in the ballroom where Yao made his announcement. The overall tone was almost funereal, lightened only by a couple of weak jokes from Yao and by the presence of his adorable one-year-old daughter.<br /> <br /> It could be that I am missing some important cultural background on Chinese press conferences or retirement announcements. But it's also true that Yao's remarkable career is tainted by the disappointment of the injury-riddled last six years. When a poll indicated that 57% of Chinese fans said they would stop watching basketball after Yao retired, I wondered who they had been watching since 2007 (or '06 or '05 even). He played just enough to show that he had the physical gifts and the drive to become one of the league's great centers, but his body kept him from ever truly getting there.<br /> <br /> Yao Ming was born into a basketball career, the son of two retired basketball stars in a country where sports training is often tied to family legacy. But when the Houston Rockets selected him with the first pick in the 2002 NBA Draft, he stepped into territory that no one could tell him how to navigate. In the now-common sports media practice of crowning athletes before they prove themselves, he bore the burden of expectations to become one of the league's great centers — not to mention the burden of becoming China's face to the world. <br /> <br /> Yao met the expectations on the court, but his career was hobbled and eventually cut short by injuries. Off the court, he exceeded expectations, growing from a shy teenager into a graceful ambassador. These past 10 years, China and the United States have been closer than ever, but the relationship is complicated by misunderstanding, competition and often conflicting agendas. Through those years, Yao has represented China just how it would like to be represented — with a reputation for humble strength, hard work and respect for country and family. And his humor has showed the world a friendly, self-deprecating side of China. <br /> <br /> This isn't exactly a convenient time for Yao to make his exit. You can say that he leaves the NBA without a Chinese player who belongs in a starting lineup, or that he leaves China without a big-time player in its favorite sport — from both perspectives, it's a large vacuum. And Chinese sports fans don't have much else to cheer about right now. Tennis player Li Na has a great story and sense of humor to go with her backhand, but she faces difficult odds to repeat her French Open feat. Liu Xiang is Asian champion again, but he has two more races that matter between now and next summer in London. And Yi Jianlian will be back for more in the NBA, but the clock is running out on his most frequently lauded trait—"potential."<br /> <br /> If Yao's press conference seemed sadder than an 8-time All Star's should be, it might not only be because his career was truncated by his uncooperative body, but also because he has no one to pass the torch to, and he can't tell his fans in Houston or Shanghai who, or what, is next.<br /> <br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Yao speech image:</a><br /> <a href="" target="_blank">Yao family photo: Xinhua</a> Wed, 20 Jul 2011 17:23:00 +0800 Harlem Globetrotters Flying Through China Tonight is the first night of a 15-day, 10-city China tour for the Harlem Globetrotters, who have entertained around the world for more than 80 years. Their one-of-a-kind combination of slapstick comedy, basketball skills, tricks and showmanship is where sports meets family-friendly vaudeville show. The Globetrotters were one of the acts brought in to fete <a href="" target="_blank">Deng Xiaoping on his 1979 visit to the United States</a>.<br /> <br /> A few of the Globetrotters stopped in Beijing earlier in the week. Scooter Christensen, Hammer Harrison and Bull Bullard entertained a small audience of local American families before heading off to their fist stop, Liaoyuan. The company is increasing its China efforts, hoping that demand for family-oriented live shows will grow in the coming years. They have opened a small office in Beijing, and retained SEA Sports & Entertainment Asia for help with event execution and marketing. They plan to return in December, probably visiting some bigger markets on that tour. <a href="" target="_blank">Their work-in-progress Chinese website is here</a>.<br /> <br /> This time around they will be stopping in these cities: <br /> <br /> <b>July 6:</b> Liaoyuan<br /> <b>July 7:</b> Liaoyuan<br /> <b>July 10:</b> Dezhou<br /> <b>July 13:</b> Pingguo<br /> <b>July 15:</b> Luohe<br /> <b>July 16:</b> Nanyang<br /> <b>July 17:</b> Xuchang<br /> <b>July 19:</b> Nanning<br /> <b>July 20:</b> Nanning<br /> <b>July 21:</b> Chongqing (TBD) Wed, 06 Jul 2011 16:11:00 +0800 Li Na bounced in round two, Peng Shuai to face Sharapova in round four As Wimbledon enters its second week, there is a Chinese player still in the running, but not the one that most fans would have expected to see still alive. <b>Peng Shuai faces Maria Sharapova</b> at 12:00 noon local time Monday, after Li Na followed her French Open win with a disappointing second-round exit from Wimbledon. She lost (3-6, 6-4, 8-6) to wildcard Sabine Lisicki, a 21-year-old German who is making a comeback after a long absence due to an ankle injury. Lisicki, whose highest world ranking so far is 22, rode her powerful serve (average speed of first serve, 112 mph) to victory over world number four Li.<br /> <br /> Although Li's loss is the biggest upset of the tournament so far, and certainly a big disappointment to her, it's something that her fans will need to learn to take in stride. <b>People here seem to have incredibly high expectations for any Chinese athlete that has shown she can compete with the best in the world</b>. Whatever the reason — national pride, thirst for heroes, a disparity between China's political position and its sporting success, or a simple lack of understanding of just how competitive a sport like professional tennis is — fans here seem to expect success to be followed by success and more success.<br /> <br /> Fans need to be more patient, Li said after the match, according to this <a href="" target="_blank">AFP report</a>, which in its headline attributes to her the line "Don't burden me with all your hopes," although the quote or one like it never appears in the story.<br /> <br /> Still, Li will of course be looking to approve on this performance in August at the U.S. Open. She might want to consider using some of her French Open prize money to hire a sports psychologist, because she seems to be inconsistent in pressure situations. She blew two match points, committing two unforced errors in the final set against Lisicki. Meanwhile, her opponent rose to the occasion in the final set, slugging out four serves in a row between 122 and 126 mph. Earlier this year at the Australian Open, Li got off to a 6-3 start, but completely lost her edge in the last two sets to lose to Clijsters 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.<br /> <br /> For now, China has one more hope alive in this tournament. This year, 25-year-old Peng Shuai reached the fourth round at the Australian Open, and retired from the French Open in the second round due to illness. She has beaten Li Na and Svetlana Kuznetsova this season, and lost to Sharapova in three sets at Indian Wells in March. Mon, 27 Jun 2011 16:04:00 +0800 Chinese badminton continues its shady ways Aside from domination, what is Chinese badminton best known for? Sadly, the answer is poor sportsmanship—specifically, throwing and no-showing matches, thereby resting its top players and manipulating results to allow its second-tier players to qualify and/or secure favorable seeds for the most important tournaments. <br /> <br /> The latest example took place last weekend at the Li-Ning Singapore Open, where China's Lin Dan, aka "Super Dan," withdrew from the final citing a stomach virus. What good fortune for China's badminton delegation — that stomach virus handed Chen Jin the win by forfeit and his first-place finish will improve his seed for the London 2012 Olympics. Olympic gold medalist Lin was booed by Singapore Indoor Stadium's crowd of more than 7,000, who didn't get the show they paid for.<br /> <br /> It's not doing any good for China's reputation in the sports world, which already has the taint of poor sportsmanship from gymasts and footballers who are younger than they say they are, and basketball players who are older. It's not good for badminton, which may never be taken seriously as a sport in the United States, and is losing ground to basketball and football in China. And it can't be good for Li-Ning, the sponsor of the Singapore Open, the Chinese team, and of Lin himself.<br /> <br /> The Chinese team are hearing it from the badminton press, who are skeptical that Lin was sick, although they concede that the decision to withdraw probably did not rest with him, but with a coach or team leader. editor-in-chief Raphael Sachetat wrote an insightful editorial on the topic earlier this week (<a href="" target="_blank">No show: is that promotion?</a>), which includes some great detail and background information on the situation. And something else Sachetat wrote more than two years ago seems to still be relevant in the badminton world: "If only Chinese badminton benefits from its own growth, the sport might simply be taken out of the Olympic program someday. Sponsors will then vanish and the little money coming in will be gone for a while. That's what is called shooting oneself in the foot…" (<a href="" target="_blank">China out of SS finals: shooting itself in the foot</a>).<br /> <br /> While China's "strategy" is an openly criticized secret, it doesn't seem to draw the attention that matters most — that of the Badminton World Federation, which seem unable or unwilling to investigate the behavior for the standard-bearers of its sport. Thu, 23 Jun 2011 18:27:00 +0800 Around the Web: Football fail, Yao retirement countdown, Action sports in China <b>Football Fail</b><br /> <br /> Life isn't getting any easier for Chinese football fans. Despite playing in Shanghai against a team whose country's population is less than a fifth of Shanghai's, China's men's Olympic team lost its London 2012 qualifier to Oman, 1-0. (<a href="" target="_blank">Oman humiliates China in Shanghai</a> — China Daily) The Chinese team gets another shot Thursday, this time in the scorching summer sun of Oman. China's women's team is usually a bright spot in the country's football program, but they failed to qualify for the 2011 Women's World Cup, which starts next week in Germany.<br /> <br /> <b>Yao Ming: "I do not dare say I am optimistic right now."</b><br /> <br /> After saying a few weeks ago that he badly wants his daughter to see him play in the NBA, Yao Ming seems to be preparing his fans and his team for the likelihood that his playing days are over. Speculation about the big man's retirement has been building since after the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, when he managed to recover from a foot fracture to compete. Despite Houston's strategy last season of limiting his playing time to less than half of each game, he didn't even make it through November. Yao's contract expires June 30 – don't be surprised if you see the Houston Rockets select a center with the 12th pich in the NBA Draft Thursday night in Newark.<br /> <br /> <br /> <b>Action sports' prospects in China</b><br /> <br /> We're a little late to share this with you, but it's still relevant. <a href="" target="_blank">Thoughtful China</a>, a new weekly online show from branded content creator Thoughtful Media dedicated to analysis of Chinese business news and trends, recently did a piece on action sports. Coming on the heel of the Kia XGames Asia, held in Shanghai for the fifth time, the show looks at the growth of these sports here, through the eyes of some figures in China's sports business world. Appearing on the show are Harvey Davis, ESPN's vice president of event management; Chien Hwang, executive creative director at TBWA China; and Eric Lai, sports marketing manager, China at Converse. Perhaps the best observation on the show comes from Hwang, who notes that brands that help foster the growth of a sport in China will see a much bigger return than those that wait for a sport to catch on before investing in it.<br /> <br /> To watch from inside China, <a href="" target="_blank">here's the GFW-friendly link</a><br /> To watch from outside China, <a href="" target="_blank">here's the Youtube-friendly link</a> Thu, 23 Jun 2011 10:29:00 +0800 Men's national basketball team cruise to East Asia semis in Nanjing China's men's basketball team has cruised into the semifinals at the East Asian Championships in Nanjing, with wins over Hong Kong and Korea. They face Japan tonight at 7:30 Beijing time. <br /> <br /> China romped over Hong Kong 104-43, allowing only 16 points in the first half. Then they rode their height advantage and South Korea's foul trouble to a 61-54 win Sunday. Three-point shooting was dismal for both teams — China shot 3 for 16, and South Korea 1 for 18.<br /> <br /> The tournament, in Nanjing, is a qualifier for the FIBA Asia Championship September 15 to 25 in Wuhan. As host, China qualifies automatically. The team has an unfamiliar look right now, with several national team regulars resting and three players on the roster serving out a FIBA suspension. Zhu Fangyu (three games), Sun Yue and Zhang Bo (one game each) all were issued suspensions by FIBA for their parts in a bench-clearing brawl in a game against a Brazilian team last fall. Wang Zhizhi, Yi Jianlian, Liu Wei, Wang Shipeng, Ding Jinhui and Zhang Qingpeng are all being rested, leaving some younger players with the chance to get some more international playing experience. <br /> <br /> <a href="/en/blog/rss/_http//wwwniubballcom/2011/05/cba_announces_12_man_roster_for_fiba_east_asia_championship/index.html" target="_blank">As pointed out by Jon Pastuszek at</a>, the chance for its starts to serve their suspensions with no real consequence for the team might be the best thing about this tournament for Team China.<br /> <br /> Li Nan image: <a href="" target="_blank"> via</a> Tue, 14 Jun 2011 13:52:00 +0800 Open System, Open Win: What Li Na means to Chinese sports Within minutes of Li Na's French Open victory yesterday, the first major title for a Chinese title player, journalists around the world speculated as to how much her success could spur the growth of Chinese tennis, and mused over whether she were eclipsing Yao Ming and Liu Xiang in popularity. <br /> <br /> The title should be a boon for tennis in China, where it was already relatively popular and accessible. And it makes Li the most compelling currently active sportsperson in the country, especially after hurdler Liu Xiang came in second at the Prefontaine Classic and announced he won't compete in Europe before world championships late this summer. But the most important legacy of her win might be captured by the message printed on the 30 special-edition T-shirts Nike made for her camp to wear during the tournament: "Zaojiu zji," roughly translated as, "Create yourself." Li -- along with Zheng Jie, Yan Zi and Peng Shuai -- is part of an experiment in self-determination unprecedented in the Chinese sports world. <br /> <br /> Less than three years ago, the Chinese Tennis Association announced its "Fly Alone" program, giving the players the option to leave the national team to train on their own, set their schedules, choose their coaches, control their commercial activities and keep 88% of their winnings, instead of turning over 65% to the federation. Li had two strong seasons and then made a run to the final of the Australian Open this year. She lost to Kim Clijsters, but took advantage of her stock to sign major new endorsements — Li represents Nike, Haagen-Dazs, Rolex and SpiderTech. <br /> <br /> Li's victory at Roland Garros after just two seasons on her own validates the association's decision to extend these women so much independence. Some tennis writers have attributed her win in part to the fact that she changed coaches between the Australian Open and the French Open, demoting her husband and hiring Denmark's Michael Mortenson — not something she could have done three years ago. <br /> <br /> In a post-match press conference, the Chinese Tennis Association chief <a href="" target="_blank">deemed the reforms a success</a>: "We took a lot of risks with this reform. When we let them fly, we didn't know if they would succeed. That they have now succeeded, means our reform was correct," said Sun Jinfang. "This reform will serve as a good example for reforms in other sports."<br /> <br /> China's bureaucrats have demonstrated a fondness for the guinea pig approach to change. The country's transition to a market economy began with reforms isolated to cities designated as "special economic zones," before spreading to the rest of the country.<br /> <br /> If similar changes are to come in other sports, it probably won't be until after the 2012 Olympics in London—sports administration leaders are unlikely to veer from the cautious course before then. And the CTA's reforms can't be simply copied by the sports China seems most concerned about— team sports, whose competition format and business model differ greatly from tennis. But China's much-maligned national men's football team, and the mediocre play in its national basketball league, might benefit from policies that encourage athletes to get playing experience outside of the country.<br /> <br /> In the post-match ceremony, Li thanked her sponsors, tournament directors, ball boys, linesmen, chair umpires, her training team, fans and a friend—notably making no mention of her country or the Chinese Tennis Association. But why should she have to thank them? She wore red and yellow on the dais and sang along as the Chinese national anthem was played and the flag was raised. Do people expect Roger Federer to thank Switzerland whenever he wins a major? Or the Williams sisters to thank America? <br /> <br /> Li Na is the vanguard of a new breed of Chinese athlete. She is creating herself, following her own path and hoping to squeeze as many wins as she can out of her career, but she is also creating a legacy will last long past her retirement, and extend beyond her own sport.<br /> <br /> Li Na image: <a href="" target="_blank">Xinhua</a> Sun, 05 Jun 2011 19:19:00 +0800 Yao Ming gets in on Shanghai Auto Show hype Yao Ming made a surprise appearance at the 14th Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition yesterday, to shill BMW's new models. Pictures and a brief account of Yao's appearance can be found in <a href="" target="_blank">this Detroit Free Press blog post by Chrissie Thompson</a>. Thompson, a Free Press business reporter and apparently a frequent visitor to auto shows, has an interesting perspective on one difference between shows in China and elsewhere in the world—a strong preference for hoopla in the form of celebrities, dancing girls and pop music:<br /> <br /> <blockquote>Western reporters often view too much hoopla or production during auto show reveals as distraction from good product. Just let us see the car, maybe after unveiling it in a short, dramatic fashion. Don't put a rock star in front of it. One set of dancers might be acceptable. More than one dance? We might start wondering whether the automaker is compensating for a lack of product.<br /> <br /> Not in China. Here, automakers say, reporters and bystanders alike expect a show – and the bigger, the better."</blockquote><br /> <br /> Read the rest of Thompson's post and see her photos <a href="" target="_blank">here</a>. Wed, 20 Apr 2011 09:31:00 +0800 China's golf boom on display in Beijing Does China have enough golf? Judging from the scene at last month's China Golf Show, the game here is still in a growth phase. More than 30 companies involved in design and construction exhibited at the show, including Cashmore, Dye Design, Nicklaus Design, Greg Norman Design, Ernie Els Design, Robert Trent Jones II, IMG, Schmidt Curley and Rees Jones. The show, in its 10th year, attracted a high number of architects for one simple reason—this is where the projects are.<br /> <br /> <b>The official count of golf courses in China is 596</b>, Wang Li-Wei, Deputy Director General of the China Golf Association, announced at the mid-March event at the China National Convention Center. <b>The CGA projects that the country will have 1,000, along with 20 million golfers to play on them, by 2020</b>. <br /> <br /> It's hard to get a reliable count of the number of courses in the country without a strong community of local course developers or managers, and where new course construction occupies a strange extra-legal gray area. But my rough estimates based on talking to people in the industry indicate that the number of courses has grown 150 percent from the 300 to 400 estimate of three years ago. George Geng, national sales manager for Rainbird, one of the world's biggest suppliers of irrigation systems for golf courses, says his company has 100 projects in the country this year. <br /> <br /> From modern China's first course more than 20 years ago in Guangdong province, <b>the Chinese golf world now extends as far west as Xinjiang province and as far north as Heilongjiang</b>. The hotspots, unsurprisingly, are still in the south—the Pearl River Delta, with its warm weather and proximity to Hong Kong; tropical Hainan Island; and Yunnan province, whose moderate climate and impressive landscape makes it an ideal home for golf resorts. <br /> <br /> The rapid development of courses, unrivaled anywhere else in the world, should make a golf expo in China a hot property. That's the bet being made by Reed Exhibitions, the UK-based event management firm which purchased the China Golf Show three months ago through its Reed Exhibitions Greater China, and organized it via joint venture Reed Guanghe. Reed secured the partnership of the Professional Golf Association of America, which is <b>extending its PGA Merchandise Show into Asia via the China Golf Show and the Asia Golf Show</b> (scheduled for October 20-22 in Guangzhou). <br /> <br /> "This is the best golf show we've ever had in China," said David Liu, chief China representative for Arnold Palmer Design Company. "Traffic is good, and the show is managed better." It was Liu's first time attending the China Golf Show for Arnold Palmer, but he says he has been active in the Chinese golf market for more than 10 years, originally as a sales representative for Club Car. His positive impression was echoed by everyone I spoke with, including RainBird's Geng. "This year is much better than last year," he said. "There are more people, and more of the architects from the US."<br /> <br /> At least one exhibiting architect, Dye Designs, inked a new design contract at the show. The new project is a two-course job in Yunnan, where Dye already has projects in various phases of development. O'Brien McGarey, president of Dye Designs, says that shows like this offer designers and their clients a chance to shop around for some of the services and goods they need to subcontract or purchase.<br /> <br /> "He walked the floor with our head designer, Cynthia Dye," McGarey said of the company's newest client. "He checked out the John Deere booth, ordered some materials, met a Korean architect he might use to design homes next to the course." Tue, 19 Apr 2011 04:00:00 +0800