Today’s News

Posted in News at 3:36 pm by Nicole

No spitting, no cutting in line, and follow those traffic laws: If you’re looking for a comprehensive overview of the challenges facing Beijing twenty-eight months out from the 2008 Olympics, look no further than this article from yesterday’s Edmonton Journal. The author was part of a recent press tour to Beijing’s Olympic venue sites and lays out in great detail the changes Beijing is attempting to adopt in order to show the world its best face. In addition to the obvious things, like finishing venues in time for test events to be run before the Olympics, there are the subtleties, like discouraging public spitting and traffic violations.

(You haven’t seen traffic violations until you’ve seen China, a place where we affectionately say that streetlights and road markings are mere suggestions. Today, my bus in Shantou ran a red light by passing the several cars and motorbikes stopped at the light on the left-hand side…that is, by passing into the lane reserved for oncoming traffic.)

It’s hard to know what it will take to change a culture – even if only for the two weeks of the Olympics – but word on the street is that the Chinese government will do everything in its power to showcase Beijing. Prison sentences for public spitters? Who knows, but based on what China is capable of doing when it wants to accomplish something, I wouldn’t put it past them.

Chinese golfers missing the cut: An article from Slam! Sports in Canada underscores the irony now being seen in China’s push to host major international sports events. The reality is that there are very few Chinese athletes who can keep pace with the rest of the world. Case in point: the China Open golf tournament, which just wrapped up in Beijing. Only one mainland Chinese player made the cut. It will probably be quite a while before China sees great professional sports success. The Olympics will be a different story, because the Olympics are the lifeblood of Chinese athletic development. My feeling is that when the official priorities change – when it’s acceptable to develop athletes who are allowed to succeed in Western terms, not just collect gold medals for China – the success rate of Chinese athletes in mainstream professional sports events will increase as well.

In Other News: Steven Spielberg will advise Chinese film director Zhang Yimou (Hero, Raise The Red Lantern) on the design of the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2008 Olympics. Football team Chelsea has extended an offer to the Chinese national football squad to provide training facilities for them ahead of 2008.


London 2012 goes to Beijing 2008

Posted in News at 12:28 pm by Nicole

The Guardian Unlimited (UK) has published two excellent stories in the last few days on last week’s visit to Beijing by Sebastian Coe, the former middle-distance running star and chair of the London 2012 organizing committee. The preview story published a week ago Sunday laid out Coe’s goals for the Beijing visit and offered up some very interesting observations about China, the IOC, and the ways in which politics play a role in the selection of Olympic host cities. Today’s story is an overview of Coe’s experience in Beijing and compares the budgets and long-term goals of the Beijing and London Olympic organizing committees.

In other news, the Miami Herald reports that the United States Olympic Committee will send a delegation to China next week to get the lay of the land in advance of the Beijing Olympics. The article provides an excellent overview of the Chinese effort to train the world’s best athletes. Among the most telling observations: that in the United States, nine-year-olds won’t practice twice a day, but they will in China, where promising athletes attend special sports schools. “Politics aside, it’s true that young athletes can be cloistered and trained more efficiently in a totalitarian society,” the article states. True enough – and a reason why China will be an extraordinarily formidable athletic force in 2008.


More on Wang Zhizhi

Posted in General at 7:44 am by Nicole

Christopher Clarey has written a comprehensive article on Wang Zhizhi’s return to China: check it out at the International Herald Tribune. Not only does the piece offer an overview of the circumstances leading to Wang’s departure for the NBA and his return to China this week, but also explains quite a bit about the sports culture of China and the way it’s changing in advance of the 2008 Olympics.


Big Basketball Stories

Posted in Basketball at 5:48 pm by Nicole

One of my students tells me the operative motto in China this week is this: “大郅,你好!”…”Da Zhi, Ni hao!”…or “Hello, Big Zhi!”

Big Zhi, of course, is NBA star Wang Zhizhi, the first Chinese to play in the NBA, who returned to China this week for the first time since his refusal to play for the Chinese national team after going to America to play NBA basketball. I asked my students this morning whether they thought he’d be playing on the 2008 Olympic team for China, and they all nodded their heads. “He won’t be the key player,” one said (that honor will almost certainly belong to Yao Ming), “but he will be very important.”

Chinese readers can check out this story about Wang Zhizhi’s return on the website for the People’s Daily. We’ll translate the piece into English and post it soon here.

The other big basketball story in China this week is of course the state of Houston center Yao Ming’s broken fifth metatarsal bone in his left foot, and the collective heave of anxiety in China over the country’s basketball chances in this summer’s World Championships in Tokyo if Yao does not recover in time. The Rockets’ season wasn’t at risk; they weren’t in contention for the playoffs and had just four games left in the season. But the NBA off-season is China’s “on-season,” the time when Yao comes home to play for the national team and to play the onshore role of China’s greatest crossover sports star. It will be a long, hot summer without Yao as he recovers.

The angst in China has been colorfully covered by the Western news media this week. Check out this article from Reuters in the Washington Post about the skepticism Chinese fans are throwing towards the Western doctors who claimed Yao would be out for six months. Other coverage includes articles from the China Daily and the People’s Daily. A wrapup of the entire season’s worth of Rockets injuries can be found at the Houston Chronicle website.


Haier and the NBA

Posted in General at 3:29 pm by Nicole

Haier AirCon

Here’s the Chinese way to say it: “High-R.” Just like that. The air conditioner/heating unit in my Shantou apartment was made by Haier, and so are a whole lot of other household and electronic goods. Big, big company with a big future, and in today’s news, they’ve signed a sponsorship agreement with the NBA. By the way, Haier is also a named sponsor for the 2008 Olympics.

Sports Business: Reuters has the story on the Haier/NBA sponsorship deal.

Track and Field: Liu Xiang is back on the track, according to the China Daily, which reports today that he’s recovered from the ankle injury that kept him out of the 2006 indoor world championships in Moscow last month. No surprises in this article: Liu’s coach Sun Haiping says that Liu is curtailing his 2006 schedule in order to peak for the 2008 Olympics.

Golf: The Volvo China Open begins on April 13, and China has a bona fide contender in Liang Wenchong. The 27-year-old recently won the Hainan stop of the 2006 Omega China Tour. The Electric New Paper of Singapore has the story. On a slow news day I’ll write more about the phenomenon of golf in China. Jeopardy quiz question: What city houses the world’s largest golf resort? Answer: Shenzhen, China, with 180 holes of golf over a piece of real estate that’s larger than two Manhattans back to back, according to this article from Cybergolf.

Football Scandals: In Chinese, soccer is called 足球 – pronounced “zoo-chee-oo” – and it sure seems like a zoo at times with all the scandals sprouting up around it. From the “Black Whistles” (corrupt referees) to gambling scandals, it almost (almost) makes European football look tame by comparison. Today Xinhua writes about an attempt to crack down on football gambling, including online betting. Wishing the authorities good luck with this one – this is one sport in China that can use all the cleaning up it can get.

India vs. China: Rediff.com writes today about India’s desire to fight doping in Indian elite sports. The fast-developing nation sees itself on a par with China in many ways, and with New Delhi angling for a chance to host the 2016 Olympics, it makes sense that now is the time for them to become a strong anti-doping force, much the same way that China has become one in the past few years after a series of drug scandals in the 1990′s.


The First Photograph

Posted in General at 2:21 pm by Nicole

Shantou U - December 2005 - NAZZARO.JPG

Finally after two weeks of blogging I’ve figured out the basics of adding images to the site. This should improve the aesthetics around this place immeasurably. For your enjoyment, I’ve posted a photo of the main administration building at Shantou University, the center of campus.

Today’s Updates

Posted in General at 12:36 pm by Nicole

What’s new: The website continues to grow and expand. We have a new template and a new page devoted to the many elite sporting events being hosted in China. The “Sports Business” page has also been expanded. The Shantou University students are hard at work editing their first articles on Chinese sports culture for the website. Look for them online later this week.

News briefs from the elite sports world today:

CHINA LAUREUS AWARDS: Liu Xiang was the big winner at China’s 2006 Laureus awards. He was named the best male athlete in China, and also China’s most popular athlete. This week, CNN’s “Talk Asia” news program has been featuring a lengthy and substantive interview with the 2004 Olympic gold medalist, one of his country’s brightest hopes for Olympic gold in 2008. Other winners at the Laureus Awards were figure skaters Zhang Dan and Zhang Hao, silver medalists in the pairs event at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Italy, and diver Guo Jingjing, named the best female athlete in China. See the Xinhua story for more details on this event. Click here for more information on the Laureus World Sport Awards.

SWIMMING: Xinhua has written a story summarizing the results of the FINA 8th World Short-Course Swimming Championships, which wrapped up yesterday in Shanghai. Among the Chinese medalists were Wu Peng (gold, men’s 200m butterfly, championship record of 1:52.36), Qi Hui (gold, women’s 200m breaststroke, 200m and 400m individual medley), and Yang Yu (women’s 200m freestyle).

BASKETBALL: The Shanghai Daily reports today that troubled Chinese basketball star Wang Zhizhi, the first Chinese to play in the NBA, is returning home today. Controversy dogged Wang during his NBA tenure in part because of his refusal to return home during the NBA’s summer breaks to play for the Chinese national team. He is quoted in the article as saying that he deeply regrets his mistakes and looks forward to playing for China again. Is this the first step towards a rehabilitation for Wang’s image so that he can be groomed to play for the Chinese team in the 2008 Olympics? Stay tuned. For more information on Wang, check out this article from Time magazine, written before Wang’s decision to return to China.

ICE HOCKEY: The Des Moines Register reports today on American ice hockey player Guan Wang, whose father Anfu was for many years an ice hockey player in his native city of Harbin, China. The younger Wang (who has Americanized his name by placing his given name first) is the youngest member of the Bantam Tier I team at the private Shattuck-St. Mary’s School in Faribault, Minnesota, which specializes in developing elite hockey players. Ice hockey may not be the first sport that comes to mind when we think about China’s elite sports program, but it’s a big sport with a potentially huge future as more and more Western sports organizations bring their considerable clout to developing sports in China.


World Short-Course Swimming Champs in Shanghai

Posted in General at 12:16 pm by Nicole

Business Day (South Africa) has an excellent article on the world short-course swimming championships taking place in Shanghai this week, with lots of excellent information on the Chinese team.


Today’s News Updates

Posted in News at 1:05 pm by Nicole

I returned to Shantou last night from Hong Kong having learned a Very Important Lesson: make sure you know the holiday schedule for the country you’re living in at all times. Today is April 5, “Qing Ming Jie,” or the holiday for honoring the dead. It’s the day when Chinese people return to their hometowns to pay homage to their ancestors. Judging from the traffic on the Shen-Shan Expressway yesterday afternoon and evening, there are a whole lot of people whose ancestors lie in Shantou who happen to now live in Shenzhen. What was supposed to be a four-to-five hour bus ride took six and a half hours. Got home in one piece, just a whole lot later than I expected.

Here’s the news summary from the last few days:

SHORT-TRACK SPEEDSKATING: The world championships in short track concluded on Sunday in Minneapolis, with much success going to the Chinese women. Highlights included gold for the team relay, gold for Wang Meng in the 500 meters and silver in the 1500 meters and 3000 meters, and silver for Fu Tianyu in the 500 meters. Read the story at the International Skating Union website here. Full results and reports are available on the ISU’s “Cyberscoreboard” here. The Cincinnati Post ran a short article summarizing the results of the event with quotes from Wang Meng.

In what is sure to be the first of many dispatches on this topic between now and 2008, we note that the ISU reports Chinese names with the given name first, followed by family name. Chinese names are normally written using the family name first. So, Wang Meng and Meng Wang are the same person (her family name is Wang). This website will always use the standard Chinese convention.

SPORTS BUSINESS: The China International Sporting Goods Show will be held in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, from April 20-23. China Economic Net has written a feature article about the event in slightly dicey but overall understandable English. According to the event website this is the largest sporting goods show in the Asia-Pacific region with 1000 exhibitors and over 50,000 buyers from around the world. The event website also includes a link to the Hong Kong International Sporting Goods Show, which took place from March 16-18. I’ve added links for both shows to the “Sports Business” page of this website for future reference.

SWIMMING: Canada’s Slam! Sports is reporting on the FINA short-course world swimming championships beginning today in Shanghai and running through April 9. Read the Slam! article here, and check out the event website here.

An interesting side note to the news article is that China’s Le Jingyi, a 1996 Olympic champion, took part in the festivities inaugurating the new swimming facility in Shanghai that is hosting the event. Le Jingyi is widely suspected of having been involved in the doping scandal that enveloped Chinese swimming in the early 1990′s, but there is no mention of that in the article. For the sake of the future of elite sports, I believe it’s imperative to keep the issue of doping at the forefront of all sports reporting, lest we become less than vigilant in the face of seemingly superhuman feats. This is not to take away from Le’s accomplishments, but it’s an oversight that I felt needed to be corrected.

PING-PONG DIPLOMACY: All of my students know the term “乒乓外交” (pronounced “ping-pong-why-gee-ow”) – “ping-pong diplomacy.” The act of sending ping pong teams where world leaders would otherwise never go did wonders for Nixon and Mao, and now it’s doing the same for China and Japan, two countries whose relationship to one another is tense even in the best of times. Xinhua reports on a reunion of Japanese and Chinese ping pong athletes in Beijing on the 50th anniversary of the 1956 world championships, which were held in Tokyo and which marked the first “sports exchange” between the two countries since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.

The Times UK is running a related story detailing the history of events between the United States and China that led to Mao’s invitation to the United States team in 1971.


ISSF Shooting Events Held In China

Posted in News at 1:52 pm by Nicole

In today’s news: The International Shooting Sports Federation (ISSF) held a World Cup event in rifle and pistol in Guangzhou (capital of Guangdong province, where Shantou is located) from March 25 to April 4. Chinese readers can check out coverage on the Chinese Shooting Association’s website here. Read ISSF coverage of Chinese athlete Liu Bo at the Guangzhou event here. The ISSF also wrote a story on Chinese athlete Ren Jie, who also competed in Guangzhou. Check the main ISSF website for more coverage of this event. The Indian online newspaper The Hindu wrote a story about the Indian women’s team standings at this event. The ISSF World Cup event in shotgun starts today in Qingyuan City, Guangdong, China, and will run until April 11.

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