China as soccer superpower?

Chinese tycoons, keen to fulfill President Xi Jinping’s ambition to turn China into a soccer superpower, have invested more than $2 billion in European football clubs since the start of last year, reports Ben Bland in the Financial Times. Among the European teams in which Chinese groups have acquired or invested: Italy’s AC Milan and Inter Milan, England’s Manchester City and Aston Villa, Spain’s Atletico Madrid and Espanol. Many of these investments may pay off. But the article stresses that there is a big difference between the “first division” acquirers such as Wang Jianlin’s Dalian Wanda Group or Fosun International, which have deep pockets and well-developed sports marketing and media strategies, and “second division” investors, for whom there are unlikely to be many synergies. It will be interesting to see if Xi and the Party can will China into global dominance in this sport, which received relatively little state support before Xi came to power. The mixed results achieved by China’s state-led sports machine at the Rio summer Olympic games suggest global victory in soccer could prove a tricky ¬†goal.

Here’s what else we’re reading this weekend…. Continue reading “China as soccer superpower?”

Blame it on Rio!

China’s bid for recognition as a global superpower in sports seemed back on track Sunday, after Chinese athletes in diving, shooting and weightlifting claimed¬†gold medals at the summer Olympic games in Rio.

Those victories followed a shaky start for China at this year’s games, leading some to wonder momentarily whether China’s prowess as an Olympic juggernaut may be faltering in tandem with the declining fortunes of the economy. Some of China’s strongest contenders failed to produce gold medals on Opening Day. Continue reading “Blame it on Rio!”