Xi Jinping visits Winter Olympic venues, urges ‘greater perfection’

Society & Culture

Construction work remains ongoing at almost all of Beijing's Winter Olympics venues. Also: FIBA has fined the Chinese Basketball Association for refusing to let the China national team play outside the country.

President Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 paid a visit last week to some of the “completed” venues for Beijing 2022.

Visiting the newly constructed National Speed Skating Oval (“The Ice Ribbon”) and other newly built facilities in Yanqing District in northwest Beijing, Xi urged for the advancement of preparation work with “greater perfection.” 

However, despite state media reports last month of the completion of Beijing’s venues, many of them, including the National Sliding Center and Speed Skating Oval, remain unfinished.

Construction work remains ongoing at almost all of the venues, with preexisting 2008 Summer Olympics sites such as the National Aquatics Center (the “Ice Cube”) and Wukesong Arena the exceptions.

It is worth noting that while construction work remains, many of the venues are operational, albeit in a testing capacity. For example, despite the snow and jumps being completed, the ski jump center’s internal facilities remain far from being in a safe, completed state.

During Xi’s visit to Yanqing, the location for alpine skiing, sliding events, and ski jumping, one fan questioned why China — “the world’s most populous country” — had yet to win a medal in alpine skiing. Ramping up pressure on the alpine ski team, Xi told the assembled athletes and coaches that he looked forward to seeing China win its first medals in the events.

Only one Chinese skier has placed within the top 40 for an alpine skiing event at the Olympics — Dong Jinzhi in women’s giant slalom in 2006.


FIBA fines China after refusal to play

World basketball governing body FIBA has announced that China, as well as Taiwan and South Korea, will be punished for failing to play in the latest round of 2021 Asia Cup qualifiers. 

A fine of 160,000 Swiss franc ($180,000) has been dished out to each country’s governing bodies, the CBA, the Chinese Taipei Basketball Association, and the Korea Basketball Association. 

In addition, FIBA deducted two points from each nation’s qualifying tally. Half of the point deductions and fines will be deferred if the respective associations send teams to the next international window.

China had been scheduled to play in Doha last November within a COVID bubble, but with strict international travel and quarantine restrictions back in China, the CBA decided that the trip was not worth it, especially with the CBA season in full flight.

The next round of qualifiers is scheduled for next month — and Team China might miss those games too.

China’s strict border controls have resulted in the country withdrawing from multiple international competitions during the past 12 months. 

International test events for the Beijing Winter Olympics next year, which were due to occur at the end of last year, were canceled in favor of domestic competitions, after the Chinese government refused to relax border controls for international Olympic-level athletes.

The only international sports competition to occur in China recently was the ITTF Restart Series — ping-pong — in November. 


PP Sports countersues Premier League over canceled TV deal

Chinese streaming platform PPTV is preparing to sue the English Premier League over last year’s canceled TV rights deal, according to the Financial Times

PPLive Sports International is suing the league in an attempt to claw back some of the money it paid to the soccer league before the deal collapsed back in September.

PP Sports claims that it paid England’s top-flight league half of the £580 million ($800 million) deal but only received a third of the value. The Premier League canceled the three-year deal at the end of the first season.

The Premier League terminated the deal with PP Sports last September after the streaming platform failed to make a payment in March that year. 

In October, the Premier League launched legal action against the streaming company for $215 million in unpaid fees. 

PP Sports, which is owned by tech giant Suning, was financially hit by COVID as sports leagues worldwide were put on pause last year, causing its subscribers to cancel their streaming subscriptions.

The collapse in international sports during the first half of 2020 forced PP Sports to attempt to renegotiate with its rights partners, which included the CSL, the UFC, Italian Serie A, the German Bundesliga, and UEFA Champions and Europa Leagues. The company told the FT that the Premier League had refused to renegotiate.

The original $800 million deal had been the Premier League’s most lucrative overseas TV rights package in history.

After canceling the package, the Premier League signed a cut-price, short-term contract with Tencent Sports. The league plans to re-tender the rights agreement at the end of the current season, ending in May.

The China Sports Column runs every week on SupChina.