The Wuhan Open.
“That is very a lot a metropolis branding train,” professor Simon Shibli, head of Sheffield Hallam College’s Sports activities Business Analysis Middle in England, stated in a telephone interview.
“Shanghai and Beijing have carried out it and so have locations like Bahrain and Qatar. They understand that there’s a international market and urge for food for giant sports activities occasions,” akin to tennis, Components One and soccer.
The occasion, owned by sports activities administration and advertising company Octagon, changed Tokyo as one of many tour’s Premier 5 — a step down from the WTA’s Premier Obligatory tournaments. It was leased for 15 years to the Wuhan Sports activities Improvement Funding Co.
Final yr, in an space that was removed from developed three years in the past, the Wuhan Open constructed a 1 billion yuan ($one hundred fifty million) state-of-the-artwork middle courtroom, full with retractable roof, modeled on the Australian Open. It may accommodate 15,000 tennis followers, as many as Wimbledon’s showpiece area.
None of it might have been attainable with out Li’s victory on the 2011 French Open.
“It was the brand new frontier for tennis in China, a brand new period,” Fabrice Chouquet, co-event director of the Wuhan Open, stated in a telephone interview. “What was not attainable earlier than, turned potential then.”
“She has made tennis so fashionable in China,” Chouquet stated about Li, a two-time grand slam singles winner.
“It actually has taken the sport to the subsequent degree, on the degree of basketball, and the nationwide sports activities akin to badminton and desk tennis.”
Situated on the convolution of the Yangtze and Han rivers in Hubei province, central China, Wuhan is utilizing sports activities as a strategy to put itself on the map.
Nevertheless the town of 10 million performed an necessary position in China’s financial and cultural historical past and has an extended monitor document as a buying and selling hub resulting from its central location.
Wuhan is quickly turning into an financial powerhouse that’s outpacing nationwide financial progress charges because of its quick-rising automotive business — Nissan, Honda and Peugeot Citroen all have joint ventures in Wuhan with Dongfeng Motor, title sponsor of the event — excessive-tech industries and commerce hyperlinks.
“We would like extra tennis followers to return to tournaments, and need extra corporations to return to Wuhan,” Yi Guoqing, Wuhan’s different event director, stated in an interview through the French Open in Paris in Might.
After tripling the dimensions of its 5,000-seat most important stadium in 2015, it welcomed one hundred twenty,000 guests final yr. Yi forecast one hundred thirty,000 spectators in 2016.
In 1911, an rebellion in Wuhan ended up overthrowing the Qing dynasty, ending imperial rule in China. Greater than a century later, the town is planning one other huge bang: turning itself right into a mega-metropolis cluster of 30 million individuals by 2025.
“The town’s tagline is ‘Wuhan, totally different day-after-day’ and it actually is true,” stated Chouquet, a Frenchman who spends about half of the yr within the metropolis. “Wuhan is rising, its financial system is booming. It’s reworking.”
Chouquet pointed to the Optic Valley space the place the Wuhan Open is situated, which is “a totally new metropolis” with a brand new hospital, inns and subway all being constructed.
Hailed as a “pioneer” by former WTA boss Stacey Allaster, Li performed a pivotal position in boosting the event of the sport on the planet’s most populous nation. The WTA hosts eight occasions in China, up from two in 2008.
Earlier this yr, Li turned a worldwide model ambassador for the Wuhan Open, which flew the town’s most well-known resident to Paris for an occasion through the French Open in Might.
After enjoying tennis on a ship on the river Seine with fellow former French Open winner Mary Pierce, Li held a speech filled with banter about her youth in Wuhan in entrance of an viewers of French and Chinese language dignitaries and dozens of members of the worldwide press.
“Li Na in a approach is a stronger model than Wuhan to the western world,” Shibli stated. “It might sound unusual, as a result of she is one individual and they’re a metropolis of 10 million. She provides to the model worth of the occasion. It will increase the attraction of the occasion and of the situation.”
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