Return of China’s major domestic sports pushed back to May at earliest

Society & Culture

The China Sports Column is a SupChina weekly feature. 

As the rest of the world began pulling out of the Tokyo Olympic Games one by one last week, China was all set to participate as usual. In the past month, various teams had been returning home to China from their different training camps based internationally.

For instance, the rowing team quietly returned last week to their training base in Rizhao, Shandong, in anticipation of competing in Tokyo in just a few months. The team and the coaches are still undergoing their 14-day quarantine in hotels in the city. The coaches sent rowing machines to each team member, with the team training together virtually from their rooms.

And then came the announcement last Tuesday of the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games until next year.

While the postponement has caused some grumbling inside the Chinese Olympic Committee (COC), officials quickly accepted that the decision was inevitable.

The primary source of annoyance from the COC has come from the fact that the entire Chinese summer sporting calendar next year will have to be shifted to accommodate the Games.

The biggest victim will be the China National Games, the quadrennial national Olympiad between the various provinces and cities in China, as well as the People’s Liberation Army and some state companies.

“[Rescheduling the Olympics] means that China’s elite athletes will have to participate in two major events consecutively in 2021,” an official from the General Administration of Sport told Xinhua. “It will be much too difficult for us and the athletes to prepare for the two competitions.”

It’s safe to say that many of China’s “elite athletes” will not compete in the China National Games and the Olympics in the same summer. Clearly, China’s top athletes will be looking to skip the National Games, even if it is moved forward in the calendar.


Stephon Marbury seeks to deliver masks from China to New York

Coney Island and Beijing basketball legend Stephon Marbury is doing his part to help frontline medical workers in New York.

As the New York Post reports, Marbury is trying to deliver 10 million N95 masks from China to hospital workers in his home city.

“At the end of the day, I am from Brooklyn,” Marbury said during a call from his Beijing home. “This is something that is close and dear to my heart as far as being able to help New York.”

“I have family there in Coney Island, a lot of family … who are affected by this, so I know how important it is for people to have masks during this time.”

Marbury is currently coach of the Beijing Royal Fighters, who sit tied for fourth place in the CBA standings. He became a Chinese legend between 2010 and 2018, when he led the Beijing Ducks to three CBA championships. There is a statue of him outside MasterCard Center in Beijing.

Meanwhile, the CBA may not resume its season until late April or early May. Is there a lesson the NBA can learn from China? Brian Windhorst has this report for ESPN.

Along with much of the sports world, the NBA has been watching the Chinese Basketball Association. There is optimism in China. There is progress. But the CBA’s struggles to build a coronavirus-safe space to finish out the season foreshadows how difficult resuming play for the NBA will be when the COVID-19 pandemic slows enough to consider such measures.


O.J. Mayo signs with Liaoning Flying Leopards

O.J. Mayo, the former 3rd-overall pick in the NBA Draft, is set to sign with the Liaoning Flying Leopards, as reported by ESPN.

The 32-year-old guard had been playing in the ASEAN league for the Taipei Fubon Braves.

Mayo, who landed on Friday, is currently undergoing a 14-day hotel quarantine in Shanghai. He has been brought in by the Flying Leopards as a backup to Lance Stephenson and Brendon Bass.

Stephenson has been on fire this season for Liaoning, averaging nearly 27 points per game. However, the 29-year-old remained in the U.S. after the CBA season was postponed again from mid-April to the start of May.

After the blanket travel ban on foreigners came into force this week, it looks as though Stephenson may not be able to return in time for the new start date, especially as the repeal of the restrictions is unknown at this stage.

However, Stephenson may not be looking to return to China at all. As reported earlier this month, a potential return to the Indiana Pacers, the team where he began his career, could be in the cards.


Brazilian soccer stars return to China by the skin of their teeth, while domestic soccer season start date postponed again

Oscar, Hulk, and Ricardo Lopes arrived back in China on Friday night at 11:49 p.m. on Friday night, just 11 minutes before all foreigners were banned from entering the country.

The Brazilian trio, who flew back to China from Brazil on the same chartered jet, all play for Shanghai SIPG and are now undergoing their mandatory 14-day hotel stay.

While the three stars were able to get back to China in time, the Chinese Super League is likely to be postponed from its anticipated March start date. “While mid-April was previously touted as a possible date for the CSL’s return, the positive test returned at the weekend by former Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini may well have pushed that back,” Reuters reports.

Wu Lei catches COVID-19 in Spain while Fellaini is infected in Shandong

The decision by the Chinese authorities to ban the arrival of foreign citizens caught a lot of sports teams off guard.

Beijing head coach Bruno Génésio is perhaps the highest-profile forced absentee. The Guo’an chief was caught out by the sudden rule change and was unable to return in time.

Other managers still outside the country include Uli Stielike of Tianjin TEDA and Cosmin Olaroiu of Jiangsu Suning. Both remain in Europe.

The China Sports Column runs every week on SupChina.