Friday is sports journalism class day at Shantou, and this morning I introduced the blog project to my two classes, Introduction to Sports Journalism and the Sports Journalism Reporting Workshop. In all, we have over fifty students this semester studying sports journalism at the university. When I got here a year ago and made my first presentation about sports journalism to the students, seven people signed up for my first class. What a difference a year (and a year closer to 2008) makes!
The students decided on their first article topics today. Each of seven groups will be writing a short piece on an aspect of Chinese sports culture that might not be so well-known in the West. Know what the game of “shuttlecock” is all about? How about Chinese chess? And why is that considered a sport, anyway? What are all those Chinese fans saying when they cheer “JIA-YOU!” (pronounced “gee-ah yo!”) for their favorite athlete? Stay tuned and you’ll find out next week.
After class I took the five-hour bus to Hong Kong, where I’ll be until early next week. I had completely forgotten (true confession: I did not have any idea) that the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens tournament was taking place this weekend. Evidently, it’s a Very Big Deal in rugby world. There are thousands of people running around Hong Kong Island as I write tonight, sporting rugby jerseys, drinking beer out of very large pitchers and appearing to have a grand ole time. On the tram to Central this evening from Causeway Bay I was offered a ticket for Sunday’s matches, for the cool price of 800 Hong Kong dollars (about 100 dollars U.S.). If only I was a rugby fan…
Lots of news today from all over the Chinese sports spectrum.
NFL (American) Football: The Associated Press is reporting today that the NFL is considering holding a preseason game in China in 2007, one year before the Olympics are staged. Outgoing NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue visited China last May to look at marketing opportunities for American football in China, and has cited the opportunity afforded by the 2008 Olympics as a reason for introducing the “other” football into China. The San Jose Mercury News has the full story here. European football, known as soccer in the United States, is one of the most popular sports in China. I’m amazed by my Chinese friends’ and students’ intimate knowledge of the English Premier League and the various European leagues. Not to mention the 2006 World Cup in Germany, which should be a huge draw for television audiences in China this summer. See the story below for more on World Cup coverage in China.
Doping: [Note: TheÂ articleÂ referred to in this entry isÂ no longer available online]Â A pretty astonishing story being carried by Reuters India and South Africa’s Supersport details the sad plight of female Chinese weightlifter Zou Chunlan, who was a medal-winner at China’s National Games between 1987 and 1993 but is now, at age 36, in failing health because of the drugs she says she was forced to take by her coaches. She was discovered working in a bath house in Changchun and was quoted as saying that she had been all but abandoned by the Chinese sports system. Zou’s competition dates square with China’s most high-profile drug scandals, including the emergence of Ma Junren’s team of world-beating female distance runners in 1993 and the positive doping tests of seven Chinese swimmers in 1994 at the Asian Games. It must be noted that China is now undertaking a massive campaign to rid sports of performance-enhancing drugs ahead of the 2008 Olympics, so China’s drug scandals may – if anti-doping officials’ actions match their rhetoric – be in the past. Still, it’s sad to see a champion like Zou fall through the cracks and become a poster child for illicit drug use in sports, much like the East German women in the 1980′s who won medals but now face a lifetime of health problems related to steroid abuse.
Sports Business: IT News Online reports today on a partnership between China’s sports newspaper Titan Sports Weekly and Chinese Internet firm Tom Online Inc. (known affectionately in China as “tom-dot-com”) to carry multimedia coverage of the 2006 World Cup. The integration of sports content they’re planning sounds exciting and far-thinking in the new world of sports content delivery, where live results are available instantly over the Internet and tape-delayed television coverage as the only means of content delivery seems to be going the way of the dinosaur. China’s as wired a country as they come and it will be interesting to see if China becomes a leader in the business of multimedia sports content delivery. From the success of the NCAA basketball tournament games being offered online in the United States it would seem that this is the new Holy Grail of sports broadcasting – figuring out how to profitably integrate multiple methods of sports content delivery (television, Internet, mobile phone, PDA). We’ll continue to watch this story and report on new developments.
Health News: As part of the 11th Five-Year Plan for National Economic and Social Development, China is undertaking a program to build modest athletic facilities in every village in the country. Reuters reports today that Feng Jianzhong, vice minister of China’s sports administration, outlined the program during a press conference on Wednesday, March 29. Though eighty percent of China’s population lives in rural areas, only eight percent of the country’s athletic facilities are available to the rural population. Much like the former Soviet Union, China has traditionally focused its sports development on elite teams made up of athletes plucked from after-school programs when very young. The most recent Party Congress took up the issue of rural-urban inequality on many fronts and this seems like a positive development for the rural population of China.
Both the Sports Business Daily and Japan’s Mainichi Daily News are reporting today that Sports Illustrated will be launching a biweekly Chinese-language edition starting in the fall of 2006. The Chinese team producing the edition will be based in Beijing and will initially focus on coverage of professional basketball and European football.
The launch of a Chinese-language edition of SI is great news for sports enthusiasts inside China and testament to the fact that more and more American magazine brands are trying their luck in the Chinese publishing market. Sports and lifestyle titles abound, but the introduction of the most widely read sports news magazine into China is a clear indication that SI believes the market for sports news inside China is growing and will only get larger and larger as the 2008 Olympics approach.
New additions to the site as of March 28, 2006:
New page: “International Media Links.” This page will provide links to major sports media around the world.
New link: Shantou University student coverage of the 2005 World Table Tennis Championships in Shanghai. The site is currently partly in Chinese and partly in English; a full English-language site is in development and should be up later this spring.
SNOOKER: Reuters is reporting today on the longer-term effects of a match-fixing scandal in snooker, a sport heretofore known of almost exclusively in Britain that appears to be taking China by storm. CCTV-5 ran live coverage of the China Open from Beijing on Sunday afternoon, and if you’re a snooker fan you surely already know the name of China’s new superstar Ding Junhui. The Chinese teen made a huge splash by winning the China Open last year. According to the article, World Snooker’s only office outside Britain is in Beijing – a testament to the federation’s hopes that the sport will take off in Asia in the near future.
RACE WALKING: The International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the world governing body for track and field, has posted a news story reporting that Chinese athlete Gadasu Alatan has won the men’s 50-kilometer race at the opening leg of the 2006 IAAF Race Walking Challenge in Mexico. The circuit continues in the coming weeks with races in Portugal, China, Italy and Spain. The Chinese leg of the circuit will be held on April 22 in Yangzhou. Read the story here.
Being pretty new to the blog scene, most of what’s going to happen on this site in the next few months will be one big experiment, learning about what people both in China and abroad are interested in knowing about what’s going on in the sports world in China. If you have questions about any aspect of the sports world here…what’s popular, what’s not, what’s on television, who the big sponsors are, what’s going on in sports at the university level…any of it, send us an email and we’ll be sure to incorporate it in a future post.
How did this project begin? A year ago, Shantou University in eastern Guangdong province hired me to design an academic program in sports journalism, with the hope that some students from this program would be able to attain a high enough level of expertise in both sports journalism and English-language reporting skills that they would be qualified to work at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. This semester, one of the classes, Introduction to Sports Journalism, will be contributing content to this weblog, letting English-language readers know more about what’s being written about in the Chinese sports media, what the trends are, what’s being covered and not covered, and where it’s all leading in the push to 2008.
I’ve added one link so far to this site: Shantou University’s Cheung Kong School of Journalism and Communication, our home base. It’s in Chinese, but an English-language site is being developed this spring and hopefully we’ll have a link up and running in the near future.
In addition to developing Shantou’s sports journalism program, I’m a sports journalist and documentary/television producer and editor based in the Seattle area when I’m home in the United States. I’ve written for American Track & Field magazine, RunnersWorld.com, and I’ve worked in television production for NBC at the last three Olympic Games (Salt Lake City, Athens, and Torino), and for Fox Sports Net Northwest in Seattle. One of the most influential days of my life was July 13, 2001, when I was studying Mandarin Chinese in Beijing. That was the day the International Olympic Committee awarded the 2008 Olympics to Beijing, and there was dancing in the streets – literally – all through the night. It was a celebration you couldn’t even imagine happening in the West, and it felt like exactly the right time for an Olympics to be given to a country like China, which is fast becoming one of the most important economic centers of the 21st century.
How the Beijing Olympics come together will be one of the most compelling sports stories of our generation, and we’re pleased to be able to witness the changes happening in China as the Games approach.
The China Sports Blog at www.wokpopcorn.com is being launched in partnership with Shantou University in Shantou, Guangdong province, People’s Republic of China. During the spring of 2006, content will include translations of relevant Chinese-language articles pertaining to the sports world in China and commentary by the students in Mary Nicole Nazzaro’s Introduction to Sports Journalism course. In the future we plan many additions to the site with the goal of becoming a center for sports-related information and discussion in and about China.