Chinese basketball legend Yao Ming may be best known for his on-court exploits, but he’s now facing a challenge of a very different sort as he looks to reform Chinese basketball. In a Chinese sports version of Bannon vs. Kushner, the big man is battling “the establishment” in order to gain influence behind the scenes. But the obstacles he’s facing may be so entrenched that the entire sports industry in China is affected.
Rumors started to circle earlier this year that Yao Ming would be appointed as the new head of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), and despite resistance in certain quarters – including this editorial from state-run news agency Xinhua which called him too young and too inexperienced [link in Chinese] – he seemed the obvious candidate.
When it comes to the 2022 Olympic Games, FIFA – not the IOC – is holding the joker in the pack. And that Joker is far closer to Heath Ledger’s dark portrayal of the character than anything that faintly resembles amusement.
Remember the Chinese American kids who won at Augusta last month? One of them – 11-year-old Lucy Li – has just qualified for the US Women’s Open at Pinehurst and will become the youngest ever qualifier to play in the June 19-22 tournament, beating Lexi Thompson’s record (who was 12 in 2007). What’s more, Li wants to play for Hong Kong, where her family is from.
The long-awaited PGA Tour China Series – a collaboration between the PGA Tour and the China Golf Association – teed off on Thursday at the Mission Hills resort in Haikou on Hainan island, the first of 12 tournaments that will run throughout the year.
With Olympic visas already in force, it’s clear we’re in the final run-up to the Sochi Olympics. But as one cycle nears completion, another one is just starting. The quest to host the 2022 Winter Olympics has begun with six bids from Europe and Asia – including a Chinese bid from Beijing & Zhangjiakou – competing in a fascinating battle between traditional and developing winter sports markets.
There was stunning news out of China on Tuesday when it was revealed the Chinese Olympic Committee had recently submitted its bid to host the 2022 Winter Games, with events held in both the world famous city of Beijing (ice sports) and the ever so slightly less well-known city of Zhangjiakou (snow sports).
The announcement of the next host city for an Olympic Games is not something that creeps up on you by surprise. Precisely seven years before each Olympics, there is a very carefully choreographed announcement, during which the IOC President reveals the winning city. It’s very hard to confuse which city has won. The IOC broadcasts this live. If you don’t hear the announcement, then the President holds up the name of the city, and the director cuts to shots of the winning delegation and host city for immediate reaction and celebration.
Japan is having a very, very good time on the Olympic stage right now. Firstly, Tokyo won the right to host the 2020 Olympics. They had always been the favorite, but had to allay growing fears that Fukushima’s ongoing nuclear nightmare would not have any long-lasting effects for the country (though, in truth, they may have been helped more by a combination of Spain’s dreadful employment record and Turkey’s heavy-handed government). It also means Asia will host back-to-back Olympic Games, following Pyeongchang in 2018.
Secondly, wrestling has been reinstated into the Olympic schedule. Much has changed since February when wrestling looked set to lose out, but Japan will benefit hugely from this. Not only do they sit fourth in the all-time medal table for Olympic wrestling (third if you take out the now-defunct Soviet team), but they won four gold medals in London last year, a total matched only by Russia.
A round-up of what’s been happening this week (Beckham stuff at the end!):
The NBA announced eight international preseason games for next season. For Asian fans that means Pacers vs Rockets, Manila, Oct 10; Pacers vs Rockets, Taipei, Oct 13; Lakers vs Warriors, Beijing, Oct 15; and Lakers vs Warrior, Shanghai, Oct 18.
Wrestling has been in the Olympics for more than 2,600 years but looks almost certain to be axed from 2020 onwards after the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommended that wrestling no longer be included in the list of core sports. It has a final chance to save itself, but only one of baseball/softball, karate, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding, wushu and now wrestling will be chosen for inclusion when the Committee meets again in May.
So who loses out and who will likely gain from this?