Great news about the site traffic – in just a month of existence, the China Sports Blog has had hits from sixteen different countries. The lion’s share (over 48%) are from the United States, but a sizeable minority (almost 25%) have been from China – and from both English and Chinese-language browsers to boot. The hottest search topic right now? CCTV-5′s broadcast schedule for the NBA finals, of course. Even without the Rockets and Yao Ming, the NBA is a super-hot ticket in China. Last year I wandered into Shantou University’s journalism computer lab at 10 a.m. one fine morning…to see almost every computer tuned to a live streaming edition of the last game of the NBA finals. That’s called major popularity, and it’s only going to get bigger as even more talented Chinese players jump over to the NBA after paying their dues in the CBA and national team.
Monday is May 1st, also known as May Day or Labor Day in China (click here for a full list of Chinese holidays). Students have the week off – a nationwide spring break. I’m off to Sydney to do some sightseeing. I was trying to remember earlier today how many summer Olympic host cities I’ve visited…I came up with London, Paris, Tokyo, Mexico City, Montreal, Moscow, Los Angeles, Seoul, St. Louis (1904!), Helsinki, and Athens. So Sydney will be number twelve – not counting Beijing, of course, which is still more than two years away from the big day.
The blog will hopefully be published sporadically during the week if I have decent Internet access and enough energy after checking out the Sydney Opera House and such things. A few friends have insisted that I go down to Melbourne to catch a game of Australian Rules Football, which is evidently almost as big Down Under as Euro football is everywhere in the world except, of course, my homeland. I’ll see what I can do about seeing a game of “footy” up close while searching for the kangaroos. In the meantime, best wishes for a great week.
Two of the big players in Chinese media right now are Sohu.com and the Shanghai Media Group. Both are making big money in sports-related content distribution within China. If you’re in the business of sports media or advertising, these are two of the names to know.
MSN Money published Sohu’s first-quarter 2006 unaudited financial results today. The numbers look impressive: over US$30 million in revenues, an increase of 32% over the same period in 2005. The article also includes quotes from CEO Charles Zhang, who notes that strategic partnerships connected with the Olympics and World Cup are part of the company’s strategy to increase wireless content offerings – including a partnership with the Shanghai Media Group. For more information about Sohu in English, check out their English-language website.
Yesterday, Broadcasting & Cable reported that the Shanghai Media Group has partnered with the NBA to bring high-definition NBA broadcasts to China, and will broadcast five games of the 2006 NBA playoffs live in China. The Shanghai Media Group English-language website isn’t yet terribly well-developed but it provides a decent introduction to the company. Chinese readers can log in here to check out their regular homepage. SMG’s sports-related news webpage in Chinese can be found here.
It’s a bit of old news, but in a piece published in February, Broadcasting & Cable reported on the relative successes of NBC’s broadcast of the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy. The article discusses how content providers are thinking through the packaging of Olympic content for 2008, particularly given the twelve-hour time zone difference between Beijing and Eastern Daylight Time in the United States. The moral of the story seems to be: broadband. Olympic television is far from dead, but it sounds from this piece as though it may experience a broad restructuring before Beijing.
It’s the year of the Cup – the World Cup, that is – and Chinese fans are crazy about the sport. “World Cup” in Chinese is ä¸–ç•Œæ¯ – “shi-jie-bei” – and there’s plenty of television programming in China dedicated to the beautiful game. Beautiful, that is, if you understand why so much of the world is so crazy about it. As an American born and bred with baseball – Mom’s a Yankees fan while Dad was from Boston, where only the Red Sox matter – I’m still finding it hard to wrap my head around the incredible popularity that European football enjoys in so many parts of the world. But I’ll get there…give me another few months.
Today the International Herald Tribune reports on the intersection of sport and politics, using the backdrop of the World Cup and Iran’s president commanding the Ministry of Sport to allow women to attend games. It’s a sobering testament to the fact that so much of the world seems to have such a long way to go towards equal rights. In fact, sport can go a very long way to showcase the abilities of both women and men – achievements that help to argue for strong laws in all countries giving women and men the same rights and protections in all areas of life.
I strongly believe that the more women are allowed to play sports at a high level, the more their position in society will improve. At the 2003 World Track and Field Championships in Paris, we watched as Afghanistan fielded its first-ever female competitor at that event in the 100-meter dash She couldn’t run anywhere near as fast as the women who won the medals, but it didn’t matter. It was about symbolism and hope – under Taliban rule, women couldn’t even leave their homes without male supervision, let alone train for elite athletics.
I digress, but it’s an important point. Sports marketers who really believe they can move cultures forward should be thinking about getting as many women into the game as possible – whatever game it might be, in whatever country they’re in. In China I see tons of boys playing pick-up basketball after class – and almost no girls. I’d love to see that trend change in the next generation.
In other football news today, Chelsea and the Asian Football Confederation signed a partnership whereby Chelsea will become the first European club to help develop football in Asia. The agreement was made in Qingdao, China during the AFC’s meeting with the Chinese Football Association.
Tons of news links today – and some catch-up links from the past two weeks, so let’s get to it:
The Christian Science Monitor has an article on China’s development, the resulting unrest in many parts of the country, and the government’s attempts to retain stability – good background for marketers who want to understand the culture and its link to the political climate here.
From the IAAF, news of Australia’s team for the upcoming track and field junior world championships in Beijing in August, and a report on the IAAF Race-Walking Challenge event held in Yangzhou last weekend. Chinese women took the top twelve places in the event, while the surprise winner on the men’s side was 16-year-old Li Gaobo.
Scroll down a bit in this report from the Sunday Tribune Sport (South Africa) to read a short piece about embattled Chinese diver Tian Liang, who is still in exile from the Chinese national team, ostensibly for taking on too many endorsement responsibilities after his Olympic successes.
The Star (Malaysia) reports on the Asian Football Confederation’s attempts to curb illegal football-related gambling in China.
Also from The Star, check out this report on Malaysia’s men’s badminton team as they depart for the Thomas Cup Finals in Japan, and a piece on how Chinese qigong is experiencing a revival around the world.
There’s more on football from CRIEnglish.com, which reports that AFC president Mohamed bin Hammam was to meet with Liu Peng, China’s sports minister, yesterday in Beijing. China is hosting the AFC/CFA (China Football Association) Development Conference starting today in Qingdao.
In sports marketing, an article from the Houston Chronicle reports on Sports-Stuff, a company that will be distributing World Cup-related electronic content through SMS and other electronic media to customers in many Asian countries, including China, during the World Cup event in Germany.
Also in sports business, the SportAccord 2007 conference is due to be held in Beijing next April.
A brief report from the Vietnam News Agency re[prts that Vietnam will be hosting the qualifying competitions for the 2008 Olympics in Tae Kwon Do for the Asia Zone.
The BMW Asian Open golf tournament wrapped up in Shanghai on Sunday – check out the Sports Network’s European PGA Golf page for a report on the event, which was televised live on CCTV-5 in China.
Finally, the People’s Daily has published a few photos online from the recent China International Sports Exhibition in Chengdu, which included a performance by the Houston Rockets cheerleaders and an appearance by former NBA star Clyde Drexler.
If you want to know Chinese sports, you’ve got to know ping pong (table tennis) and badminton. These “small racquet” sports are trained for and played by Chinese athletes the way American pro athletes play baseball and football. It’s training and competition at the very highest level. If you haven’t seen a live pro badminton or table tennis match in China, prepare to be mesmerized when you do. The Chinese public knows and appreciates its athletes – and the international stars in these sports – in a way that’s difficult to grasp for a Western observer. The world championships in ping pong alternates between a singles and doubles competition and a team competition in alternating years. This year it’s the team event – and it comes to Germany this week. The Thomas and Uber Cup competitions in badminton will be held in Japan starting April 28. Read on.
World Table Tennis Team Championships: The Chinese refer to the world ping pong championships as the ä¸–ä¹’èµ› (“shi-ping-sai,” a short version of ä¸–ç•Œä¹’ä¹“é”¦æ ‡èµ›, “shi-jie ping-pang jin-biao-sai”). China simply dominated last year’s event in Shanghai, winning all five titles up for grabs (men’s and women’s singles and doubles, and mixed doubles). This year it’s the team competition in Bremen, Germany, which begin today and run through May 1. The International Table Tennis Federation website has all the details, and also has a great article on the Chinese teams – as always, they’re the ones to beat this year.
The competition will dominate CCTV-5 this week – the Chinese language schedule can be found online starting here. Live coverage from Bremen, according to CCTV-5′s website, will run Wednesday through Sunday, beginning each day at 3:40 p.m. China time (9:40 a.m. in Germany; 3:40 a.m. Eastern U.S. time).
An aside: last year the Li Ka Shing Foundation, which supports the efforts of Shantou University, was generous enough to fund a trip for myself and five sports journalism students to attend the event in Shanghai. The resulting work can be found in the “Links” section of this blog. We were helped immeasurably while there by the president of USA Table Tennis, Sherri Pittman. The ITTF website has a nice article on the members of the original U.S. “ping pong diplomacy” team that came to China thirty-five years ago this month. Sherri and several members of the team marked the 35th anniversary with a special event with their Chinese counterparts. Kudos to Sherri and Team USA for their generosity towards our program while we were in Shanghai, and best wishes to all the teams for a great competition this week in Bremen.
Thomas and Uber Cups: The Thomas Cup is badminton’s answer to the Davis Cup in men’s table tennis; the Uber Cup is the women’s team event. The two events, held simultaneously, start up this Friday in Japan. The first round of events will be held in Sendai from April 28-May 1 and then the event will move to Tokyo from May 3-7. The Malaysian website The Star is running an article today about the Malaysian men’s team and its chances against the formidable Chinese. This is an old article (2004), but Badminton Central has a nice introduction to these bi-annual team competitions in professional badminton. And if you just can’t get enough of badminton after that, check out the home page for the Asian Badminton Confederation, which includes the full playing schedule for the event. Then pick up that racquet and shuttlecock, and start seeing what all the fuss is about.
(Fun fact: The bird flu scare in China last year drove up the retail price of shuttlecocks, which use real birds’ feathers.)
Hu Jintao’s U.S. Visit: It’s not specifically about sports, but it’s a must-read for anyone doing business in China. The New York Times has a commentary today on Hu Jintao’s visit to the United States. The gist of the article is that of the two Washingtons visited by Hu (State and D.C.), it’s the left coast that has a clue. Washington Governor Christine Gregoire rightly notes that the kinds of policies being considered by the federal government to pressure China into loosening its currency policy and improving the trade imbalance would be looked upon by the Chinese as threatening gestures, and that all business in China begins with friendship. After almost eighteen months as part of a Chinese “danwei” (work unit), I heartily second Governor Gregoire’s observation. In the United States, business comes first, and from there, friendships form. In China, it is exactly the opposite – good advice for all Western organizations looking east for new or continuing business relationships. (Note: the New York Times archives its articles after one week, after which time this link will lead to a page where you will have to pay to read the article.)
Chinese-Language Media Reports: China.com reports that the Beijing Hotel will be serving as the headquarters for the International Olympic Committee during the 2008 Olympics. It’s slightly old news now, but China Sport Online has a brief report about the IOC’s upcoming Olympic forum in Beijing in October. The Chinese Olympic Committee reports that based on many interviews conducted by reporters from the Xinhua news agency with those involved in the construction of Olympic venues and surrounding structures, the construction plan is successfully incorporating the “three big ideals” (ä¸‰å¤§ç†å¿µ) of the Beijing Games: Green Olympics, High-Tech Olympics, and People’s Olympics.
Daily publishing schedule for the China Sports Blog: The blog will be updated at least once daily by 5 p.m. in China (5 a.m. U.S. Eastern Time and 2 a.m. U.S. Pacific Time during daylight savings) on weekdays, and occasionally on weekends as events dictate. The schedule may change slightly depending on Chinese national holidays. This week the blog will be updated Monday through Thursday. Friday I’ll be heading out of town on a trip abroad for the May Day holiday week, so updates next week will be sporadic, but will include at least one update from Sydney, where I’ll be spending the holiday week. I’m excited to be heading out of town, and even more so becuase Sydney arguably staged the most successful Summer Olympics in history back in 2000. Photos and notes to follow after my return on May 10.
Word on the street is that many marketing professionals are beginning to work seriously on their plans for Olympic sponsorship for 2008. For that reason I’ll begin to add more information to the blog regarding news about the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG). The executive board of BOCOG held its 66th meeting in Beijing on Thursday, April 20. On April 19, Wang Wei, the executive vice-president and secretary general of BOCOG, held a meeting with the vice-president of Johnson & Johnson regarding their sponsorship of the 2008 Olympics. The company has signed an agreement with BOCOG to become a partner for the 2008 Games.
The place to go online for all official BOCOG-related activities is their English language website. I’ll include notes on as many of the goings-on of the committee as I can on a regular basis.
A few days ago I had the pleasure of sitting with Alan Knight, a visiting professor at Hong Kong University and a frequent blogger, as we looked at the China Sports Blog together. He introduced me to the technology at SiteMeter, a free service that keeps track of our visitors and the search terms and engines that leads them to our site. Since putting SiteMeter on the blog, I can report that we have had visitors from several cities in China, including Beijing, Tianjin, and Chongqing, as well as several visitors from Australia and the United States, and just yesterday our first visit from Sweden. Data on the search terms will help immeasurably with tailoring the site to the needs of English-speaking sports journalists, sports marketing professionals, and fans of Chinese sport in all of its aspects.
As always, if you have feedback for the site, please feel free to contact me.
Reuters reports today that Guangdong Tigers star Yi Jianlian, an NBA hopeful, will not enter the draft for the coming season. Yi will elect instead to continue with his China Basketball Association (CBA) team, which clinched its third consecutive national title yesterday with a victory over the Bayi Rockets (ironically, the club team of China’s first NBA player, Wang Zhizhi).
CBA basketball is all over CCTV-5, China’s national sports network. But last year, NBA TV jumped onto the Chinese basketball bandwagon by offering live coverage of the CBA finals with English commentary. Check out this article at NBA.com on the NBA/CBA agreement – it’s a year old but worth checking out if you’re interested in the ever-increasing ties between American and Chinese basketball.
Two stories today on the emergence of women’s boxing in China – a story in today’s China Daily reports that women in China are gravitating towards boxing as a fitness activity, and Xinhua reports on a recent boxing tournament in Chengdu, where 29-year-old Zhang Xiyan won the World Boxing Council women’s lightweight crown.
Sports marketing continues to be a hot topic in China – here, an article in the China Economic Net about current opportunities in the sports marketing world. I’m hoping the CEN gets a native English speaker on board soon to clean up their English, but their meaning still comes through fairly well.
OregonLive.com has a great piece on the challenges faced by advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy as they opened up their Shanghai office. “Just Do It” doesn’t translate into Chinese – and censors telling the agency what they can and cannot show on Chinese television might not translate with Americans – but both sides are trying their best to understand each other. This is a great piece on the realities of Western business and Chinese pop culture coming together under the gaze of conservative Chinese protectors.
Lots of hand-wringing this week as men’s field hockey stages a World Cup qualifying tournament in Changzhou, China. The New Zealand “Black Sticks” are still alive in the tournament, while Malaysia is in angst after its men suffered a loss to France, 4-1. Korea is still in the hunt for a qualifying spot for the World Cup tournament, to be held this September in Germany. Read more about the tournament at the International Hockey Federation website.
Foreign coach sought for China’s men’s Olympic football squad – this news in today from the China Daily.
The China Daily also reports that the upcoming IAAF world junior track and field championships will provide its junior stars with an opportunity to test themselves against the best in the world. It’s not a secret that China isn’t exactly a world track and field superpower, and in reality it will take longer than the next two years to groom a stable of champions, but this event will showcase the best of China’s next generation, as well as giving Beijing yet another chance to host a major event in the run-up to 2008.
I’m a little bit behind in posting articles, but this one from CRIEnglish.com last week is worth the read – an analysis of why China’s golfers made such a poor showing at the China Open in Beijing and how the China Golf Association hopes to develop young Chinese talent in the future.
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