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Welcome to Wanda stadium

Welcome to Wanda stadium
Sep 22, 2017 (WiC 381)

Wanda is set to feature more in Europe’s newspapers. That is not because of the Chinese conglomerate’s overseas acquisition drive (which ground to a halt recently) but thanks to a new stadium in Spain that has been named after the group.

On Saturday Atletico Madrid defeated Malaga 1-0 in the Spanish football team’s first home match this season. But the main story in the media was the new stadium: the Wanda Metropolitano.

The 68,000-capacity stadium has half of its title named after the Estadio Metropolitano, where Atletico played before moving to the Calderón in 1966; and the club’s Chinese shareholder provides the other half.

The venue is believed to have cost around €170 million ($204 million) to build. Part of the investment has been financed by the Wanda Metropolitano’s naming rights agreement, which Sohu Sport has reported to be worth “around €10 million” a year.

Most fans at Wanda’s opening night appeared to be impressed. “The Wanda Metropolitano is not the Calderón, the nostalgia lingers, and there is maybe even a sense of loss. But, wow, it’s certainly impressive,” the UK’s Guardian wrote. ESPN also noted that moving to the Wanda stadium is “a huge step forward for a club hoping to permanently break the Barcelona-Real Madrid duopoly”.

In spite of Atletico’s Wanda affiliation, most La Liga fans in China remain loyal to either Barcelona or Real Madrid. Matches between the duo are dubbed El Clasico, or sometimes as “the national derby of Spain”.

In order to capitalise on China’s growing interest in Spanish football, La Liga bosses have scheduled the next Clasico (on December 23) to kick-off at 1pm local time. The midday kick-off means that Chinese fans will be able to watch the clash at 8pm Beijing time.

“We don’t need to stay up until midnight to watch the Spanish national derby. This is a victory for Chinese football fans,” Sohu Sport cheered.

The boxer rebellion

The boxer rebellion
Sep 15, 2017 (WiC 380)

The Olympic Games has been the springboard for boxing greats to emerge – think Muhammad Ali or Evander Holyfield. However, there are glaring differences in how bouts are scored by Olympic judges versus those used in professional fights. Landing clean punches, even very soft jabs, can score more than knockdowns. It isn’t uncommon for the judges’ decisions in the amateur format to go against the audience’s perception.

There have also been disputes in the boxing ring at China’s National Games, which were held in Tianjin earlier this month. In the final for the men’s 69kg category, Liu Wei, captain of the national team, seemed to have prevailed over his opponent over three rounds. However, he was defeated after all five judges ruled against him. Something similar happened in the 75kg category, stoking suspicion that the bouts were rigged.

Several boxers even refused to leave the ring in protest against the “unfair rulings”. The General Administration of Sport quickly weighed in, announcing last week that the national boxing team would be disbanded. Judges that officiated at the National Games have also been suspended, pending an investigation into potential match fixing.

There were further controversies in the title bout of the mixed martial arts (MMA) competition at the same tournament. Shaanxi’s Xu Jiaheng needed just two seconds to knock out his rival with a high kick. Netizens were soon questioning whether this too was rigged, although Xu insisted his strategy was just spot on.

Bigger and better?

Bigger and better?
Sep 8, 2017 (WiC 379)

Chinese shipbuilders are celebrating after the French line CMA-CGM signed a letter of intent in August for the construction of the world’s biggest container ships by Hudong-Zhonghua and Shanghai Waigaoqiao, two Chinese shipyards. Both yards are owned by state-run China State Shipbuilding Corporation.

The order is for nine vessels capable of carrying 22,000-TEU (twenty foot equivalent units). Each will cost up to $160 million, reports 21CN Business Herald, comprising a total order of about Rmb9.6 billion.

The Chinese media was delighted that their yards have seen off competition from South Korean rivals Hyundai Heavy Industries, Samsung Heavy Industries and Daewoo Shipbuilding, which have traditionally built the largest vessels (see our Focus edition earlier in the summer for more on the aspirations of the Chinese shipyards).

In capacity terms the new vessels will surpass the largest containership at sea today (it was built by a Korean yard). But just how big are they going to be, asks 21CN? Well, if all the containers were loaded onto a train, it would end up stretching for 142km, further than a trip from Nantong to Shanghai. All the same, the newspaper also quotes shipping insider Xin Jicheng as saying that containerships can’t get much bigger in the future. For one thing, the decks can’t be piled much higher with cargo. “The maximum stacking height of empty containers is usually 11 layers, and 8 layers for loaded ones,” he told 21CN. The other challenge is finding container terminals large enough to handle the supersized vessels. The megaships crowd out smaller vessels and the current generation of quay cranes will need to be replaced if ships keep growing. “These are huge investments for the port industry, which is obviously unrealistic,” Xin reckons.