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Showing posts with label Sports. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sports. Show all posts

Monday, July 16, 2018

World Cup Spirit at Restaurants, Bars, and Urinals in Shenzhen, China

Unlike at a mall in Hong Kong, I didn't come across any malls in neighboring Shenzhen showing every FIFA World Cup match. However, I did see some bars and restaurants in different parts of Shenzhen which were promoting the World Cup or showing games, such as these two eating & drinking establishments which are next to each other at the Central Walk Shopping Mall:

Shewhy British pub in Shenzhen decorated for the FIFA World Cup


Thai Joy restaurant & bar at the Central Walk Shopping Mall in Shenzhen decorated for the FIFA World Cup


There were other bars, at least some of which are popular with foreigners, showing matches at the same mall. For part of the third place playoff match between Belgium and England, I went to The Brew. Even though I showed up late, I was still able to get a table with a great view.

view of a TV partially blocked by a man sitting in front of me


For the championship match between France and Croatia, I decided to watch from my hotel room, in part due to it beginning at 11 p.m. China time. Fortunately, my a combo of a fast enough internet connection, a fast enough VPN connection, and Telemundo meant all went reasonable well. I couldn't understand most of the Spanish commentary but "GOAAAAAALLLLLL!" was pretty clear.

And finally . . . I saw an especially unexpected sign of the football spirit in Shenzhen in restroom urinals at several different malls.

urinal with a miniature football (soccer ball) and net at the bottom


I didn't hear anybody shouting "GOAAAAAALLLLLL!"

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

A Large Crowd at a Hong Kong Mall Watches Japan Defeat Colombia in an Historic World Cup Match

This evening at the apm shopping mall in Kwun Tong, Hong Kong, I heard a loud roar. Important context: loud roars aren't the norm at shopping malls in Hong Kong. I soon went out into the central area of the mall and saw that a large crowd had gathered.

crowd watching soccer match at the apm shopping mall in Hong Kong


Their main objective wasn't to roar but instead to watch a FIFA World Cup football ("soccer" for some of us) match between Colombia and Japan. When I arrived Japan was up by one goal. Presumably the one score in the game is what led to the magnificent roar I had heard.

crowd watching 2018 FIFA World Cup football match at the apm shopping mall in Hong Kong


The football-related festivities also included an area where people could play a football video game. The machines were hidden away, but based on the controls I think they were PlayStations.

playing soccer video game at apm Hong Kong


Nearby, though I don't think formally part of the apm promotion, people could play football on an Xbox as well.

playing soccer on XBOX at apm Hong Kong


And if that wasn't enough, there were signed jerseys of famous past football players on display.

Signed Pele and Maradona jerseys


I hadn't planned to spend much of my night at the mall, but after I saw Colombia tie the game I decided to stick around longer. Japan scored one more goal and held out for a remarkable win:
This scoreline was particularly unexpected in light of the fact that Japan had changed coaches shortly before the tournament, and because no Asian team had ever previously defeated a South American side in 17 World Cup meetings.

Japan celebrating live on video at apm Hong Kong


The event at apm was also remarkable to me since I have seen and experienced plenty of anti-Japanese sentiment in mainland China. But based on reactions, shirts, and flags, the Hong Kong crowd included supporters for both teams. I think Japan even enjoyed a solid edge in support.

More games are ahead. The immediate slate occur each day at 8 p.m., 11 p.m., and 2 a.m. local time. Staff at the mall insisted Apm will be open to show them all. This isn't extremely surprising since Apm is already known for its late night hours. I left the mall shortly after Japan won. So I can only imagine how many will watch Russia face Egypt there at 2 a.m. tonight.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Basketball with the Help of a Bicycle Tire in Gongbei

Just a few minutes walk from where I saw a late night game on Gaosha Middle Street in Zhuhai, I saw more kids playing with a ball today. In this case, I wouldn't call it "Gongbei-ball". "Basketball" works just fine here.

boys playing basketball with a hoop made out of a bicycle tire in Zhuhai, China


Unlike the Gongbei-ball ball, this ball appeared to store bought like another I recently saw. But a bit of creativity was required for the basketball hoop which was made using rope and a bicycle tire.

One of the boys took a few shots while I photographed.

boy shooting a basketball into a bicycle tire hoop in Zhuhai, China


He made almost all of the shots and the hoop served its purpose well, just like the Gongbei-ball ball.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Genuine and Not So Genuine: Baltimore Ravens Boxer Shorts and Other NFL Items for Sale in China

Jingyou Mall portion of the Zhuhai Port Plaza
A small portion of the vast Zhuhai Port Plaza


Hundreds of stalls in the underground Zhuhai Port Plaza shopping center in front of the Gongbei Port immigration checkpoint in Zhuhai, China, sell a wide variety of clothing. Yesterday I saw an unexpected item there which reminded me of where I last lived in the U.S. — Baltimore, Maryland.

Baltimore Ravens boxer shorts for sale in the Zhuhai Port Plaza
Assorted underwear and sleepwear for sale


A young saleswoman said the boxer shorts with the logo of the Baltimore Ravens, a National Football League team, cost 25 RMB (about U.S. $3.90). Although bargaining would likely lead to a lower price, the shorts are already much cheaper than any similar items for sale on the Baltimore Ravens official online store. Obvious imitation products are plentiful at many shops in the market, so it is easy to believe these boxer shorts aren't entirely legitimate.

In regards to counterfeit Baltimore Ravens merchandise coming from China, a few years ago the Baltimore Sun quoted the NFL's vice president of legal affairs as saying "If you're buying merchandise from a China-based website, you're probably not getting the real thing". But the claim doesn't appear to be as true anymore, since the NFL now has a store on Alibaba's Tmall.com which is referenced on the the NFL's website for China.

main page for the NFL store on Tmall
NFL store on Tmall


A Ravens hat currently sells there at nearly a 50% discount for 158 RMB (about U.S. $24.80), not very different from the same hat's current discounted price of $22.99 on the NFL's U.S. online store.

New Era Baltimore Ravens Training 39THIRTY Flex Hat for sale on Tmall
New Era Baltimore Ravens Training 39THIRTY Flex Hat for sale on Tmall


The Ravens page at the NFL Tmall store doesn't list any other items. The store offers five items with the logos of the Ravens' biggest rival, the Pittsburgh Steelers, though.

Items for sale listed on the Pittsburgh Steelers page at the NFL Tmall store
Items for sale on the Pittsburgh Steelers page at the NFL Tmall store


At least the Ravens can take heart in the fact I didn't see boxer shorts for any other NFL teams at the shop in Zhuhai.

But the Ravens and the NFL shouldn't look at the shorts themselves as necessarily a sign of growing popularity in China. It is not uncommon for people in China to wear clothing with logos more familiar elsewhere simply for their look without concern for their full meaning. Although there are indications the NFL's relatively small fanbase is growing in China, I very rarely meet anyone familiar with it, sharply contrasting with widespread recognition of the NBA. Likely similar to most people in China, the saleswoman didn't know the meaning of the logo. Nor she she seem to care in the least when I informed her of its connection to an NFL team in the U.S. Nonetheless, if the Baltimore Ravens later notice a fan base unexpectedly growing in Zhuhai, these shorts may be where it all began.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Mao Basketball, Not Baseball, in China

In response to a post with a quote of the MLB vice president saying Confucious would have liked baseball, reader "Pete" commented:
Baseball is certainly popular in other Asian countries, including Taiwan. Assuming this Wikipedia article is correct, there have been 11 players born in Taiwan that have played Major League Baseball.

The advantage that basketball has over baseball is that you can play basketball with two people, one ball and one hoop. Or you can go shoot by yourself. To play a reasonable game of baseball, you need more equipment, more people, and a bigger patch of ground. And it's pretty much impossible to practice by yourself.

If baseball is going to grow in China (or Australia, or the Netherlands, or Italy, or inner-city Chicago), it's going to need organizational and facilities support from the government and MLB's (or NPB's) outreach organization.
Although mentioning Confucius may be a good for marketing purposes, I believe more contemporary issues, such as those raised by Pete, are more likely to have a impact on whether baseball significntly grows in China. For example, Helen Gao's article in The Atlantic suggests basketball's current dominance in China has far less to do with whether an influential philosopher would have liked it 2500 years ago than the preferences of a 20th century leader who also has a book filled with his quotations:
During the Cultural Revolution, Mao [Zedong] declared war against almost all Western bourgeois affections, from classical music to novels [to baseball], but he never wavered in support of basketball. Deprived of all forms of cultural enrichment and lacking the most basic athletic equipment, children and young adults roamed around their neighborhoods, setting up boards and hoops in alleys and courtyards and pouring their energy into the simple game of shooting the hoops. "At that time, China had basically only two sports: basketball and ping pong," my father, a teenager during the height of the Cultural Revolution and a devout basketball fan told me. "If you were young and loved sports, you only got these two to choose from."
See Gao's piece for more about basketball's history in China and the roles political support and other factors have played in its growth. Of course, Confucius may have liked it too.

Friday, July 24, 2015

"No Clock, the Sacrifice, the Journey Around the Bases": MLB Hopes For China

The ethical man comprehends according to righteousness, the small man comprehends according to profit.

Analects of Confucius, Book 4, Verse 16

Xu Guiyuan, nicknamed Itchy thanks to one of his baseball coaches, recently made a bit of history by becoming the first player from MLB's three professional baseball development centers in China to sign with a Major League club, in this case the Baltimore Orioles. In an article about Xu that also provides examples of how MLB's centers in China have been adapted to better fit the local culture is a fascinating claim about how the game of baseball, which was banned during the Cultural Revolution, is especially well suited for China:
"All the ethereal things about baseball -- no clock, the sacrifice, the journey around the bases that starts and finishes at home -- it all resonates in Chinese culture," said MLB vice president Jim Small, who oversees all of Asia. "I'm convinced that if baseball was around during Confucius' time, he would have been a huge fan."
What would Confucius say? What would the NBA, far more popular than MLB in China, say?

Please discuss.




*Added note: Removed my first two lines because they could imply things I didn't intend to imply and had nothing to do with this post anyway.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Xtepiration in Changsha

I planned to post something I had expected to be delightfully simple before moving onto more delightfully complex matters. But the post turned into something also delightfully complex and took me down several unexpected paths. Since it clearly won't be finished today, I will now share a photo which tangentially relates to it. As a bonus, it includes a message which may inspire some people.

part of large advertisement for Xtep with the message "KEEP MY BELIEVE" covering a space apparently under construction

The space under renovation along Changsha's South Huangxing Commercial Pedestrian Street was covered by the upper portion of marketing material for the Chinese sportswear company Xtep. Since I don't know what appeared below the cut, I will refrain from commenting on its possible intended message. You are welcome to seek a deeper meaning in the scene though.

For an extra bonus, while I stood there with my camera out, a person walked by and enthusiastically posed for a photograph. I accepted his gracious offer.

young man wearing a face mask with his hands in the air and fingers making V signs.

And now I feel inspired to continue work on the other post.

Monday, December 15, 2014

China's National Anthem Ban

China has expressed its concern about when and where the national anthem is played:
China has banned the national anthem from being performed at weddings, funerals, commercial and other non-political events, state media reports.

Under new rules, the anthem is to be reserved for major political and diplomatic occasions, as well as places such as sporting arenas and schools.
Performing the anthem in the wrong setting will lead to people being "criticised and corrected". I am not sure how the rules apply if a wedding is held at a sports arena.

I see a bit of irony in China banning only its own national anthem and am reminded of an event in China several years ago which involved another patriotic song:
China's state TV accompanied coverage of the historic launch of the country's first space laboratory with a patriotic US song, America the Beautiful. . . .

Viewers of CCTV were treated to a minute-long animation set to the American song.
I suspect some criticism and correction occurred at CCTV's offices afterwards. Regardless, China has not announced any bans on America the Beautiful—something wedding and funeral planners might want to keep in mind. As CCTV knows, it's a great piece.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

New York's Staten Island Yankees Make an Appearance in a Shanghai Ad

At the Metro City shopping mall in Shanghai I saw an advertisement for MLB (Major League Baseball) clothing. This didn't surprise me, especially since I had recently seen a MLB store in another Shanghai mall. The advertisement highlighted the Yankees. This also didn't surprise me. I have lately noticed more people in China wearing clothing with the New York Yankees "NY" logo.

But one part of the advertisement did surprise me. Below the familiar New York Yankees logos were the words "Yankees — Staten Island".

advertisement in Shanghai for MLB clothing with the New York Yankees logo above a logo for the Staten Island Yankees

Staten Island is one of New York City's five boroughs, but the New York Yankees have a storied history in another borough, The Bronx. A baseball team might move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, but a move from The Bronx to Staten Island was hard to imagine.

Indeed, the New York Yankees remain in The Bronx. However, Staten Island is home to a minor league baseball team — the Staten Island Yankees. Nicknamed the "Baby Bombers", they are an affiliate of the New York Yankees. They don't use the "NY" logo and instead have their own cap logo.

The Staten Island Yankees cap logo (source)

Given the New York Yankees enjoy far greater recognition and the clothes in the advertisement had the "NY" logo, it seems likely that the Staten Island Yankees reference was simply a case of confused identities and may fit into the category "a little bit of knowledge can be dangerous".

Or not so dangerous . . .

Like other similar apparent mistakes I have seen in China, it may not have much effect locally. In other Chinese cities, such as Hengyang in Hunan province, I have spoken with people wearing clothes with the "NY" logo. Often, they said they didn't even know it represented an American baseball team, let alone a team in The Bronx. So the Staten Island reference in this case may not impact many people's perceptions or purchases. More interesting to me than a measure of American baseball knowledge in China, the mistake could be another hint that a seemingly seemingly obvious explanation, interest in the New York Yankees baseball team, does not best account for increasing numbers of people in China wearing Yankees-themed clothing. This touches on some bigger issues which I will return to in the future.

But who knows, perhaps I got part of this wrong, and the Staten Island Yankees have a significant number of fans in Shanghai. Stranger things have happened. Just ask people in New York. In that case, the Baby Bombers sending Scooter the "Holy Cow" to China as a sports ambassador might be a "better-than-dandy" idea.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

(I Believe That) I Would Change This Sports Chant

Thanks to the glories of online social networking and VPNs, I recently saw this ESPN advertisement for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil:



I appreciate ESPN wants to get Americans excited about the World Cup, but the chant "I believe that we will win!" leaves something to be desired. Not only does it call into question the claim that the U.S. is a leader in creativity, but its potential effect is weakened by the phrase "I believe that". Instead of detailing my thoughts in a three thousand word essay, I will instead simply share three other videos along with a few questions to ponder.

First, what if the refrain in this song by Queen were "I believe that we will rock you"?



It doesn't quite have the same kick, does it?

Second, after the rocking is over, what if the refrain in this other song by Queen were "I believe that we are the champions?



It raises the question of whether they are really the champions, no?

And finally, the ESPN ad sounds more like a daily affirmation than a rousing or intimidating sports chant. But even if that is its purpose, why add "I believe that"? Stuart Smalley didn't:



I could go on, but (I believe that) I will stop here.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Photos That Nearly Made Here it in 2013

When I upload a photo to Picasa it usually means I plan to use it soon in a blog post. But sometimes things don't go as planned. So to start off 2014 here, I will share a mishmash of photos from 2013 that were uploaded but for one reason or another never made their way into a published post. In addition to any descriptions, I'll share links to earlier related posts--all except two from 2013. Together they provide reminders of a tiny bit of what was covered here during the previous year and a hint of some of what else I had hoped to share and write about.

So in chronological order...

2013 for me began celebrating in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. After Kuala Lumpur, I went to Penang, where I listened to a woman describe her challenges visiting her son in the US, and later Melaka, where not far from the Melaka River I saw this shop in a mall:

stall selling a variety of items in a mall in Melaka, Malasia


Some of the flip-flops (sandals) for sale caught my attention:

flip-flops with the logos for Facebook, Yahoo, Google, and YouTube

What do all of the brands on these flip-flops have in common? They are all global online services created and based in the US. I didn't see any Baidu, WeChat, or Tencent flip-flops...

Later in Melaka, I think not to far from where I met a young woman seeking forgiveness, I looked up and saw this:

blue sky with clouds in Melaka, Malaysia

For more about why my time in China has given me a deeper appreciation of blue skies with "normal" clouds, see the 2012 post "Skies and Clouds in China" with scenes from Macau.

After Malaysia, I headed to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where I documented many examples of people riding pedal-powered vehicles, motorbikes, and motorized-vehicles which were pulling or pushing something. However, there was one example, like one of a coffin being delivered on a motorbike, that I had hoped to share in its own post. I never got around to the post, so here is the photo:

young woman with many flowers riding a pedal-powered rickshaw in Phnom Penh, Cambodia


Street vehicles weren't the only thing on my mind in Phnom Penh. For example, at one shop I noticed this screen for a cash register at a small convenience store:

computer screen showing calculations for price and change in US dollars and Cambodian Riel

In Cambodia, both US and Cambodian currency are regularly used, and transactions can include both. The above screen is presumably an attempt to make life easier and reduce the number of errors.

While in Cambodia I also went to the riverside town of Kampot. In the countryside I walked to Fish Isle, ate a mysterious sea creature, surprised a little girl by answering her phone call, and explored the area to the north by bike. I didn't share many scenes from central Kampot, but here's one at a large market:

man posing next to a van with its back door open to pack in more vegetables


After Cambodia, I went to Vietnam, Taiwan, and the US. No unused uploaded photos from those places, but there's one from my next stop: Seoul, South Korea:

MLB store in Seoul, South Korea

This was one of several MLB (Major League Baseball) stores I saw in Seoul. In the window the logo for the Los Angeles Dodgers can be seen--the same team some men were watching at Seoul's Namdaemun Market.

After returning to China, I had the opportunity to revisit Cheung Chau--one of Hong Kong's outlying islands. While there, I saw this monkey:

hanging orange toy monkey in Cheung Chau

I had considered posting the photo without any comment except a title something like "Orange Ennui in Cheung Chau".

Fortunately, ennui wasn't an issue for me on Cheung Chau. Nor was it during my visits to nearby Macau where I saw beer speeding through the streets on the peninsula and these three young women in Cotai:

three young women wearing racing clothes, helmets, and goggles in Macau

Almost 2 years ago I shared my experience taking a random bus ride in Zhuhai, Guangdong province. Several months ago I took another random bus ride in Zhuhai. Maybe someday I will share more of what I saw, but for now I will just say I was particularly surprised to hear, and then see, goats:

three black goats on and around a brick path in Zhuhai


Also while in Zhuhai, I shared some scenes from a late-night outdoor dining establishment. For a contrast, here's an outdoor dining scene at a pricier establishment:

outdoor dining scene at a cafe in Zhuhai

Usually I enjoy the local Chinese-style seafood in Zhuhai, but this is my favorite place for a smoked salmon sandwich.

Finally, more recently I shared a scene from a restaurant in Changsha--a city where I've seen a lot of change. This is the spicy chicken dish I ate for lunch at the restaurant:

spicy chicken dish, rich, and a pot of tea at a restaurant in Changsha, China


And that brings this unplanned set of photos to a close. Undoubtedly, more photos, experiences, and thoughts from previous years will appear here in the future--as will new ones.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Watching Major League Baseball in Seoul

As I walked through Namdaemun Market in Seoul, South Korea, this past Monday, I saw several men watching a baseball game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Francisco Giants.

three men watching a American baseball game on a TV outside at a market

Notably, the starting pitcher for the Dodgers was South Korean Hyun-Jin Ryu. This is Ryu's first season playing for Major League Baseball in North America. Possibly to the disappointment of these viewers, this was not one of Ryu's finer games. He gave up 4 earned run in 6 innings and the Dodgers lost the game. Ryu now has a record of 3 wins and 2 losses for the season.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Physical Education at Colleges in China

students in a fitness class at a basketball court in front of the library at Hunan First Normal University in Changsha, China

The above scene in front of the library at the Hunan First Normal University in Changsha, Hunan province, represents something I have seen many times at universities in China: students participating in "physical education" classes--though sometimes they seem to involve rather light activities. There has been growing concern in China about the physical fitness of its students. As China Radio International (CRI) reports on a recent attempt to address this issue:
A circular, recently published by China's State Council has proposed an assessment system for middle school students' physical health, including a compulsory PE exam for students being recruited to universities or colleges...

Recently, increasing study pressure has forced Chinese students to spend more time at their desks rather than on playgrounds. Obesity and poor nutrition are quite common, as described by Qu Guoyong, a middle school PE teacher at east China's Shandong Province.
And the China Daily reports on new policies for colleges:
Experts have praised new policies that encourage physical education at universities, which will see students being tested on their fitness levels...

The policy will see students' physique and fitness added as a factor in evaluating their performance at the university, Wang Dengfeng, director of physical, health and arts education for the Ministry of Education, told China Youth Daily.

[Mao Zhenming, dean of Beijing Normal University's sports college] predicted that student fitness levels will become part of the evaluation system for universities.

The current evaluation system looks at physical education programs, including investment in sports facilities, recreation areas and the rate of students reaching the national fitness standard, Mao said.

He hopes there will be more ways to measure physical education, such as the number of sports clubs, involvement in dormitory sports, and opening hours for recreation centers.

Random inspections from authorities are also necessary, he said.
If you are skeptical any of these methods, you are not alone. CRI reports that some experts have expressed their doubts about their effectiveness:
Cheng Fangping, a senior researcher on education studies with Renmin University of China says the plan is not feasible since the promotion of students' physical health cannot be achieved through PE exams alone.

"Students would take physical exercises just for the purpose of passing the exams rather than developing a healthy lifestyle. They would have no incentive to pursue more sporting activities after they finish the exams. They may have high exam scores but poor health conditions. So, teachers should encourage students to take exercises as an effective way of improving their learning efficiency."
But further change is possible. And some professionals in the field appear to be seeking ideas from outside of China. A press release from the U.S. Department of State describes a recent example:
Chinese physical education professionals will travel throughout the United States from October 15-23 to exchange ideas and experiences with their U.S. counterparts, as they look to achieve the shared goals of ensuring that all sectors of the population have access to sports and recreation, and the opportunity to learn physical fitness skills.
I will refrain from any jokes that could be made about Chinese coming to the U.S. for advice about physical education. Instead, I will positively note my support for cross-cultural exchanges such as this one. They can open up each side to new ideas--on the topic of improving the physical fitness of students, both China and the U.S. could probably use some.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Changsha's Autumn Island Cafe for All

Yesterday in Changsha, Hunan province, I met Mr. Li:

man wearing a baseball cap and holding a fishing rod in Changsha, China

What most caught my attention was not his proudly displayed recent catch but his baseball cap. It is rather rare to see someone in China wearing the Baltimore Orioles logo. I learned that his cousin from the US had given him the hat as a gift. He seemed amused to learn that it represented a baseball team in the city where I had previously lived.

After learning a bit about each other, he was eager to introduce me to his soon-to-be-open cafe:

inside a cafe on Autumn Island in Changsha's LIeshi Park

It includes a room for karaoke and he has plans for the cafe to also serve as an "English corner" where English can be practiced.

For reasons not clear to me, during our conversation about the cafe he suddenly brought up the dispute between China and Japan over the Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. He said that there was great tension between the two countries and that the islands had been part of China since ancient times. Thinking about the bar in Changsha which forbids Japanese from entering, I asked him, "Can Japanese people come to this cafe?" Without hesitation he said "Yes! Chinese people and Japanese people are friends! The problem is between the governments."

So, I am happy to announce that Mr. Li's cafe can be found on the small and peaceful Autumn Island (秋岛) in Changsha's Lieshi Park (烈士公园). It should be open sometime this weekend. Most importantly, all are welcome.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Hong Kong Versus China in the Olympics

As can be apparent in sports such as keirin (a cycling event) and table tennis (ping pong), Hong Kong fields an Olympics team that is distinct from China's team. China permits Hong Kong to do this under a right detailed in Chapter VII, Article 151, of the Basic Law of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China:
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region may on its own, using the name ""Hong Kong, China"", maintain and develop relations and conclude and implement agreements with foreign states and regions and relevant international organizations in the appropriate fields, including the economic, trade, financial and monetary, shipping, communications, tourism, cultural and sports fields.
Not only does Hong Kong compete in the Olympics, it came close to facing off with China for the gold medal in this year's table tennis team event. However, Hong Kong lost in the semifinal and will compete for the bronze medal while China will face South Korea in the gold medal match. [Update: China won the gold medal in both the men's and women's team event. Hong Kong lost to Germany in the men's bronze medal match.]

If the idea of Hong Kong competing against the rest of China in the Olympics seems peculiar, things get only more complicated when considering who is on Hong Kong's table tennis team. According to the AP:
Hong Kong’s three players were all born in mainland China and moved to Hong Kong when they could not make China’s national team.
This may raise questions about whether the Hong Kong team provide a double opportunity for some mainland Chinese to compete in the Olympics. As reported by Reuters, the Hong Kong table tennis players tried to explain their situation:
"We are definitely loyal to Hong Kong, otherwise we would be playing for China," said Hong Kong's Chu Yan Leung.

But then his team-mate Tang Peng pointed out: "We are playing for Hong Kong but there is no difference between Hong Kong and China, we are in the same country."
Their words seem to raise more questions than answers. For example, what are the implications of Cheung's "loyalty" to Hong Kong? And the claim of "no difference" further highlights Hong Kong's unusual situation. Although Hong Kong is part of China, Hongkongers enjoy more freedoms than mainland Chinese and there are numerous other differences which exist. There is even a border between Hong Kong and mainland China which can make it easier for someone from India than someone from China to be allowed entry into Hong Kong.

One might think that a Hong Kong team could create a distraction for China that it would prefer to avoid. But I suspect China has no interest in dissolving it. The reason has nothing to do with Hong Kong's laws or providing some Chinese two opportunities to compete in the Olympics.

Instead, the reason has much to do with another team in the Olympics that China would prefer not to stand out too much and may want to send a signal.

Chinese Taipei.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Shaolin Athletics

A lighter post for the weekend...

The Shaolin Monastery in Henan is famous worldwide for its martials arts, most specifically Shaolin Kung Fu.

Shaolin Monastery in Henan


The monastery is full of beautiful and historic sites.  Not surprisingly, for many people the highlight of the visit is watching a masterful display of martial arts.

martial arts show at the Shaolin Monastery in Henan


I was duly impressed and enjoyed my walk around the monastery grounds.  However, when I looked down the side of one of the buildings I saw something quite unexpected.

basketball game at the Shaolin Monastery in Henan

Even at a place most famous for its rich Chinese tradition, there is evidence for the immense popularity of basketball in China.  I wonder if similar to many foreigners who visit Shaolin these players would find significance in attending an NBA game in the US.  I suspect so...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

China Scenes: Wuzhou, Guangxi - Part 2

The second installment of photos from Wuzhou, Guangxi (Part 1 is here):

View of a section of the city from a hill

More arcade style buildings

Poster advertisement.  The NBA is very popular in China.

Street market

Soccer field in the middle of the city

Alley

I think I know what these are but...  what do you think?