Reading the Meet our new Owner introductory page on Aston Villa’s official website, new chairman Tony Xia ticks all the right boxes: young, presentable, well-educated, former player, long-time Villa fan and – as an employer of 35,000 people in 75 countries – presumably also fantastically rich.
But the truth, it seems, is not quite that simple.
After a breathless few weeks during which the entire sporting world has been talking about Chinese football (with yours truly quoted by AFPthreetimes, FTtwice, El Pais, Hicimos, Vice Sports and interviewed by CCTV, BBC and Al Jazeera among others), let’s take a look at a few stories that could be cropping up over the next 12 months…
Pretty clear, right? Well, actually, no. As this article from shougolf.com points out [in Chinese], it turns out that the Washington Post and the BBC (its two main targets) and others jumped the gun somewhat on their “China bans golf/golf club memberships” headlines.
CCTV, IMG and Infront – all huge names in the sports industry – were among the suitors to buy the rights to produce and broadcast the Chinese Super League. But these three, and others, were obliterated by the bid submitted by the comparatively little known Tiao Power, worth a staggering 8 billion yuan over five years.
The World Athletics Championships kick off in Beijing today, with the world’s media focusing more on the doping allegations that have engulfed the sport than on the sporting action. This is completely understandable, given the revelations that have come out in recent weeks – for example, that one third of the athletes who competed at the 2011 World Champs in South Korea had suspicious tests during the previous 12 months.
However, Chinese media – led by national broadcaster CCTV – have been putting more of a positive spin on things, as is their government-directed wont. Wall-to-wall coverage of former meets (including the 2008 Beijing Olympics) has been shown on sports channel CCTV-5 in recent days, educating and encouraging the public in equal measures, in the hope that they embrace these championships.
The problem is: Liu Xiang, China’s 110m hurdles 2004 Olympic champion and the sport’s only real domestic star, recently retired.
In a few hours’ time, IOC President Thomas Bach will announce either China’s capital, Beijing, or Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, as the host of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. Here are some reasons why China should be confident of success – and some reasons to worry:
All the talk in this part of the world is how China is bound to win the 2022 Olympics, given that its only rival in this two-horse race is so nondescript that many haven’t even heard of it, let alone be able to place it on a map (for the record, Almaty is in Kazakhstan, only a few hundred miles from the Chinese border).
But there is one very obvious hurdle here: this is a Winter Games, and while Almaty was described in the IOC’s evaluation commission report (ECR) as “a winter sports city, with easy access to the mountains and some world-class winter sports venues”, check out pictures from the same ECR of where China’s bid plans to hold the skiing event:
Since writing this week’s Sports Talk column about Stephon Marbury‘s playoff heroics for the Beijing Ducks, he scored 36 points – including two 3s in the final minute – to lead the Ducks to a slender 111-110 win over the Liaoning Leopards and tie the CBA Finals at 2-2.