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Chinese city’s tennis ambitions imperilled by Peng Shuai scandal By Reuters

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© Reuters. A crane stands on the renovation website of Shenzhen Stadium, the place the unique 1985 stadium facade is being preserved as a part of the redevelopment plan for the multipurpose stadium, in Futian district of Shenzhen, Guangdong province, China December 2, 2021

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By David Kirton

SHENZHEN, China (Reuters) – Hosting the Women’s Tennis Association Finals was supposed to place the Chinese know-how hub of Shenzhen on the sporting map, however the suspension of the event within the wake of the Peng Shuai scandal has left its ambitions in limbo.

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China’s “miracle” metropolis, greatest often called the launchpad of the nation’s 40-year financial transformation, is amongst China’s wealthiest and is house to tech giants together with Huawei Technologies and Tencent Holdings (OTC:).

In January 2018 the WTA introduced that Shenzhen had trumped rival bids from Manchester, Prague, St Petersburg and former host Singapore to stage what would “simply be the most important and most vital WTA Finals” in its historical past, its chairman and CEO Steve Simon stated on the time.

The metropolis of greater than 17 million that neighbours Hong Kong had promised a state-of-the-art stadium, whereas native actual property developer Gemdale Corp put up $14 million in prize cash – double the pot of the earlier finals – successful the suitable to stage the occasion from 2019 to 2028.

But early this month, Simon introduced the WTA would droop tournaments in China over the remedy of former No.1 doubles participant Peng Shuai, who was not seen in public for practically three weeks after accusing China’s former Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexual assault. [L1N2SN04V]

“Unless China takes the steps we’ve requested for, we can’t put our gamers and workers in danger by holding occasions in China,” Simon stated, taking a stand that drew help from the worldwide tennis neighborhood however embarrassed Beijing because it prepares to host the Winter Olympics in February.

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Doubt over the event’s future highlights the conflict between China’s international sporting ambitions and western criticism of Beijing’s authoritarianism. A handful of nations led by the United States have introduced a diplomatic boycott of the Olympics – which means they will not ship authorities representatives.

China hosted 9 WTA occasions in 2019, however the WTA confirmed on Dec. 7 that the standard season-opening Shenzhen Open, an occasion separate from the WTA Finals, is not going to happen within the first half of 2022. China has been all-but-shut to worldwide guests in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. [L4N2SS1I0]

A spokesperson for the Shenzhen authorities stated he didn’t know whether or not the WTA would return. The Florida-based WTA stated it remained hopeful that China would do what it requested in permitting for a direct line of communication with Peng.

“That is why this can be a suspension at this level, not a cancellation,” a spokesperson stated. 

MISSED SERVE

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For Shenzhen, the WTA Finals had been to be a lift to its cultural and sporting status.

In late 2017, then-mayor Chen Rugui personally lobbied Simon to host the finals, saying Shenzhen is a younger and open metropolis and the event would assist “take sports activities to a brand new stage”, in accordance with an official report.

Chinese media had been effusive.

“It’s not only a main occasion for Chinese followers and tennis, however a unbelievable probability for Shenzhen to develop into an internationally famend identify,” the Shenzhen Evening News stated.

The WTA Finals is probably the most prestigious girls’s occasion after the 4 Grand Slams, and the Shenzhen prize cash was $5 million greater than within the equal males’s ATP Finals, guaranteeing a star-studded draw. World No.1 Ashleigh Barty of Australia received the primary Shenzhen WTA Finals in 2019.

“It’s the most important event outdoors the Grand Slams, it is large, it is exhausting to overstate the significance of that by way of the status and the extent of the gamers and the cash concerned,” stated Mark Dreyer of China Sports Insider.

POLITICAL GOODWILL

Shenzhen’s tennis hopes additionally underscored the confluence in China between sports activities and the now-struggling property sector.

Nine of the 16 groups in China’s troubled prime soccer league, which turned infamous for forking out tens of millions of {dollars} for international stars, are majority-owned by corporations linked to the actual property sector, together with debt-strapped China Evergrande Group and the Kaisa Group, which owns Shenzhen’s membership.

Gemdale, which sponsored the event, operates a number of tennis services in Shenzhen together with an “worldwide” coaching academy.

“Their enterprise mannequin is to not get it again in ticket gross sales and all that type of stuff, it is political goodwill that they get from the Shenzhen authorities,” Dreyer stated.

Gemdale declined to remark.

As for the stadium, the plan is to protect the facade of a 1985 enviornment – historic by Shenzhen requirements – in a 3.6 billion yuan ($566 million) renovation that will increase its capability to 16,000, in accordance with bulletins and an individual with information of the matter.

Work continues because the stadium will host different occasions, stated two folks with information of the matter. For now, it stays a dusty building website within the central Futian district.

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