This blog wishes it be known that the opinions presented herein are the sole responsibility of the author, and do not represent the feelings, opinions, ideas, or conclusions of any affiliated organization or group. Additionally, the author has chosen to keep the blog confidential during the Olympic Games 2008, as the reaction of the PRC towards foreign opinion remains ungauged. Thanks for reading.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
August -- The Futures Present Opinion: A bit-a-bruit
Two days ago, I was lucky enough to attend the semifinal of the women's soccer at Gong Ti, the Worker's Stadium, between the United States and Japan. I was excited as this would be my first visit inside of the stadium, which has stood in Beijing long before the Olympic Games.
Built in 1959, as a commemorative monument to the PRC's Tenth anniversary, this stadium is home to the Beijing Hyundai (a.k.a. Guo'an), the city's team in China's recently born "Premier" soccer league. It was recently renovated in preparation for its role in this year's summer games, and now has a seating capacity of over 70,000. There are future plans for it to host the first ever NFL game in China (August of 2009).
As a preface, this was the first time I was knowingly walking into a U.S.A. competitive match, and had enough time to think about some of the issues at stake. One issue, which is not openly discussed in China is the general animosity that many have for the Japanese, the U.S. teams opponents. Secondly, China's deeply seeded desire to stand atop the Medal heap at the end of these Games puts the PRC against the U.S., a well documented rivalry. Lastly, from a futures perspective, Gong Ti is now dwarfed by its big brother, the Bird's Nest, and many question what purpose either of them will serve in the future.
To address the first issue:
It is well known that China has some deep feelings of anger for the Japanese. These feelings come from the two Sino-Japanese wars of the last century, and Japan's economic dominance in Asia during the later part of the century. Recent surveys amongst China's youth show that anger for the Japanese is subsiding, a trend attributed to China's economic success, and the passing of time since the Japanese withdrawal from mainland China. I went to the game with a Chinese friend of mine, and while he was not anti-Japanese, he was adamantly rooting for a U.S.A. victory.
As was the rest of the Chinese flag touting crowd.
Perhaps due to China's success so far in the games or the American fans adaptation of the inspirational rally chant into Mei Guo, Jiao You, the Chinese fans in the crowd quickly picked up on the side of the U.S.A. Though the crowd sat quiet for a majority of the time, when a good play, or a goal was had by a U.S.A. player the cheering was deafening in comparison to the support for the Japanese team. In regards to the medal haul, Chinese fans still came out for good football, and apparently even more so for good American football.... er.... soccer.
And as for the stadium itself, speculation abounds, but it will likely remain home to the nascent Chinese Football Association (CFA) presence in Beijing. This league is a significant step for China, and for the tremendous potential many see in the area of Chinese professional sports. With such a huge population, games like football, basketball, and other easily accessible sports are widely popular, but to date there has been little support for profitable professional sports leagues in the PRC. The CFA and Chinese Basketball Association represent the most successful ventures to date, but have yet to turn a legitimate profit. Analysts and supporters are keen to view the development of this economic area in the future, and Gong Ti and other large scale venues stand ready to capitalize on the emergence of one or more sports circuits.
Gong Ti, the worker's stadium seems to be anticipating one or more sports markets to emerge. Its increased capacity, and recent upgrades on safety precautions would seem to signify planners long term plans. Additionally, it has even been refitted with a huge display screen that can turn 180 degrees and face the street. This megalithic T.V. will apparently face the street and one of the most popular neighborhoods in modern Beijing, during non-game time -- broadcasting public announcements, CCTV1, and even commercials. So even as real estate prices for the SanLiTun area continue to flower, Gong Ti will be able to subsidize its presence with advertisements, and support from the governing media.
The futures of the Bird's Nest will be discussed in more detail in a following article...stay tuned.