Rugby's long road in China
Updated: 2013-03-25 05:55
By Tang Zhe (China Daily)
Thank you, Olympics.
Despite a frustrating absence from the Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong Sevens, China has every reason to be optimistic about its future prospects now that Sevens has been added to the Olympic Games.
China missed the Hong Kong event because it failed to finish in the top three in the 2012 HSBC Asian Sevens Series for the first time since its Hong Kong Sevens debut in 1998.
There is little doubt though that China will improve. Olympic sports are supported heavily by the government.
"If the rugby Sevens is in the Olympics, I believe the Chinese government will be supportive of developing rugby," said Giles Morgan, global head of sponsorship and events for HSBC. "They will have funding, and then more children will play, more coaching will happen, and they will find the real talent in China. China has many people, and we only need 10 people to be the best. I believe these people exist.
"China has a wonderful appetite for Olympic sports, so I think in 25 years time, assuming Rugby Sevens is still in the Olympics, rugby will be a much bigger game in China."
Once Sevens was added to the China National Games, provinces devoted money to the sport, sending teams to traditional powerhouses like Fiji and New Zealand for training.
China is still grappling with a tight touring budget and little media exposure. Rugby is neither popular nor well-understood in China, especially among children.
"It will require one Olympic Games with Sevens being played and televised by CCTV5 for the Chinese public to see the game," Morgan said. "It requires the Olympics to be exposed to the children, and to help the game to grow in countries like China.
"This is not a game for size, it's a game for fitness, speed, skill and strength, and there is no reason why Chinese players can't be very good."
HSBC began sponsoring the Hong Kong team since 2012, when it became Asian champion. Even still the sport hasn't completely caught on in Hong Kong, partially because there are only three Chinese players on the team. Most players and spectators at the event are foreigners.
"That will be something as the game develops. More children will become attracted to rugby, and more talent will emerge," Morgan said.
"Hong Kong is a very international city, and therefore there are many people from all over the world living here with their children, and growing up here," he said.
(China Daily 03/25/2013 page24)