China's booming sporting chances

Updated: 2011-10-03 07:35

By Tang Yue (China Daily)

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China's booming sporting chances

Clockwise: Yi Jianlian of China plays during the FIBA Asia Championship in Wuhan, Hubei province, last month. Australian Samantha Stosur will head the women's competition at the China Open during the National Day Holiday in Beijing. The F1 Powerboat World Championship will be held in Liuzhou, in China's Southwestern Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region this week. Since the Beijing Olympic Games, China has been enjoying an across-the-board boost in most sports. One of the most significant changes is the increasing presence of major international tournaments like the WTA and ATP China Open, the Shanghai Masters and the F1 Powerboat World Championship. [Photos/Xinhua and Agencies]

The Beijing Olympics touched off an explosion of growth in Chinese athletics, Tang Yue reports

Not everyone is traveling to see family for this week's National Day Holiday. But thanks to China's booming sports culture, there are plenty of other options. Some of the biggest names in tennis, from US Open champion Samantha Stosur to French Open winner Li Na will be in Beijing for the China Open.

Meanwhile, the ongoing F1 Powerboat World Championship in the city of Liuzhou in China's Southwestern Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region is entertaining local citizens.

China's booming sporting chances

Since hosting the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China has increasingly become one of the world's sports capitals, holding an increasing number of world-class tournaments.

Guangzhou became the second Chinese city to host the Asian Games last November, while the 26th Summer Universiade was held in neighboring Shenzhen in August.

The China Open has become one of the most important events on the WTA tour after the Grand Slams as it will attracts all the best women's players to come to the city during the National Day Holiday.

On the men's side, although world No 1 Novak Djokovic withdrew due to injury, fans have the chance to see stars like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Gal Monfils.

Following the China Open is the ATP Shanghai Masters, from Oct 8-16.

The NBA's presence in China has been a treat for local basketball fans, and soccer lovers have had the opportunity to watch top clubs like Bacelona, Real Madrid, AC Milan and Inter Milan.

"The Beijing Olympic Games vastly boosted people's passion for sports and thus the demand for high-level tournaments, " said Chen Shaofeng, director of the China Institute of Sports Value.

China's booming sporting chances

"Meanwhile, the governments at different levels have noticed the overall benefit of holding sports events, and thus want to make sports a name card for their cities."

And it's not just the largest cities that are keen to hold events - smaller towns and counties also see them as a tool for promotion and growth.

Take Pingguo county in Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region for example. The county, well-known for its aluminum ore, has held $25,000 ITF tournaments three times, as well as a $35,000 ATP Challenge in March.

It has also held the China- ASEAN men's basketball Invitational Tournament since 2009.

The government has invested 200 million yuan ($31.3 million) in the sports infrastructure, building a tennis center with 19 courts, a soccer arena with 20,000 seats, a basketball stadium for games and another one for training.

"Now, our fiscal revenue mainly relies on the mine, but we all know it won't last forever," said Wei Zhoufan, Party secretary of Pingguo county. "So what else we can do? We found sports is a very good choice.

"We want to build Pingguo as a sports center in this area. On one hand, it will promote the service industry and sports tourism in Pingguo. On the other hand, it will also encourage more of our people to get involved in sports and live a healthy life."

Experts are happy to see a booming sports industry, but are concerned about the proliferation of stadiums springing up.

"Big tournaments do bring a lot of opportunities to the cities and towns. But it is not that the bigger (tournament), the better," said Chen.

"It costs a lot to host an event, especially to build the new stadiums. The local government should be careful to do a cost-benefit analysis. It also should have a detailed plan for the use of the stadiums when there is no tournament, or it will be a kind of waste."