The Australian Open "has stepped up its efforts to market the tournament and court increasingly affluent and tennis-mad fans in China," according to Justin Bergman of the AP. The tournament has "tried to build up its brand in China" by taking the Australian Open trophy on a tour of the country, creating a Mandarin-language version of the event's website and setting up an Australian Open account on China's version of Twitter, Sina Weibo. Additionally, "more tour operators in China are offering package tours to Melbourne." Tennis Australia Commercial Dir Steve Ayles said that "these tennis-themed trips increased" by 82% compared to last year. Ayles: "What it means is when a Chinese player plays particularly well, because we have this all in place, it just heightens the level of awareness of the Australian Open. Right across the board, when we have a player like Li Na play well and get to a final, obviously it helps underpin our strategy in China" (AP, 1/27). In Sydney, Scott Murdoch wrote "China's love affair" with Li is not showing any "signs of fading after her tenacious performance" against world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka in the Australian Open women's final. An estimated 120 million people watched the dramatic match, which was shown on CCTV5, one of China's main networks. Support for Li "was strongest in her hometown," Wuhan, in the province of Hubei. At the Hubei Tennis Center, "dozens of supporters spent the 2.5 hour match willing their idol -- who is now considered China's biggest sporting figure -- to snatch victory from her Belarusian rival" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 1/28).
Events and Attractions
UEFA revealed that Euro 2020 will be held in 13 cities across Europe and the semifinals and final "will be played in the same stadium," according to Brian Homewood of REUTERS. UEFA Secretary General Gianni Infantino said that "no more than one venue per country would be permitted, no host nation would be guaranteed qualification" and that venues would be chosen in Sept. '14 (REUTERS, 1/25). The AP reported in an "effort to encourage smaller countries to join the project," the UEFA exec committee pledged to choose two stadiums holding as few as 30,000 spectators. Other stadiums "must have a 50,000 capacity, which at least 20 of UEFA's 53 member nations already have" (AP, 1/25).
FIGHT FOR THE FINAL: The BBC reported the FA has "already put forward" Wembley as a possible venue for the final. It expects to face rival bids from Berlin, Istanbul, Madrid and Rome. Istanbul is the favorite for the final, but "only if it loses its bid for the 2020 Olympics." UEFA President Michel Platini has already said that he would back the Turkish city, and he "confirmed his position again on Friday." Cardiff, Dublin and Glasgow "are all expected to bid to host group matches." The FA will also bid for group matches and quarterfinals "if its bid to host the final stages at Wembley is unsuccessful" (BBC, 1/25).
INTEREST IN SCOTLAND: In Glasgow, Craig Swan reported the Scottish FA is "staking a strong interest" to be part of the showpiece with Ireland and Wales also interested. Glasgow would have "a good case for inclusion as Hampden, Celtic Park and Ibrox all have capacities of at least 50,000." In an "added bonus," SFA Chair Campbell Ogilvie is on the working party, which is putting together the fine details of the Championship, and Scotland is "firmly in the running" (DAILY RECORD, 1/26).
EURO 2016 VENUES: UEFA confirmed the 10 venues for Euro 2016 in France. They are: Bordeaux, Lens, Lille, Lyon, Marseille, Nice, Paris, Saint-Denis (Stade de France), Saint-Etienne and Toulouse (UEFA).
F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone "has stopped negotiations with private project developers Kai Richter and Jörg Lindner at the Nürburgring," according to the DPA. The refusal stated: "After thorough examination of their proposal, we can't accept it because it is financially not feasible for us, and we have to stop our negotiations." One week ahead of the start of the F1 testing period, the home grand prix of defending world champion Sebastian Vettel "still hangs in the balance." A possible alternative for the Nürburgring "is still Hockenheim," which has been alternating as host of the German race with the Nürburgring since '07. In November, the former operators of the Nürburgring, Lindner and Richter, "were assured by the state of Rhineland-Palatinate that they are allowed to host the race in '13." In return, they "handed over the remaining race operation to the state-owned Nürburgring Operating Group (NBG)" (DPA, 1/27).
PORTUGAL POSSIBILITY: SPEED reported Portugal "has emerged as a candidate" to stage the vacant 20th race date on the '13 calendar, and France "is also in the running." Asked about the mid-season and so far unnamed 20th race set aside for a European venue, and also the uncertainty surrounding the venue for the German Grand Prix, Ecclestone said: "Frankly, I don't know. For the free date, there is interest from France and now also Portugal with the new Algarve track." Amid reports either the Nürburgring or Hockenheim could end up hosting the early July event. Ecclestone said: "For the German Grand Prix, it's still open" (SPEED, 1/26).
RUSSIAN DATE: R-SPORT reported Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov said that F1's first Russian Grand Prix will be held in Nov. '14 "in spite of reported delays." The track at the Olympic Park in Russia’s southern city of Sochi started construction in '11 and is contracted to host seven races from '14-20. Pakhomov said, "After the Olympics, in November, the Formula One will be held" (R-SPORT, 1/25).
The Int'l Cricket Council Women's World Cup 2013 will be staged in two Indian cities -- with Mumbai still hosting the majority of games and some group and Super Six Stage matches being relocated to the Odisha city of Cuttack. Pakistan's matches will be held at the Barabati Stadium in Cuttack. The final remains scheduled for the Brabourne Stadium, the home of the Cricket Club of India in Mumbai on Feb. 17 (ICC). ... The countdown to the 2014 World Cup will reach the 500-day mark on Monday as hosts Brazil is "making progress on all fronts after a stuttering start." FIFA General Secretary Jérôme Valcke said, "We have entered the finishing straight in our preparations for these extremely important events in the home of the five-time world champions" (DPA, 1/27). ... India "will host the prestigious Asian Athletics Championships in Chennai in July as the continental athletics body on Saturday gave its go-ahead to the event." The Asian Athletics Association had allotted the Championships to Chennai way back in May, but "element of doubts arose" after the Indian Olympic Association "was banned by the IOC last month on the ground of government interference" (PTI, 1/26). ...The Opening Ceremony of the 2013 PyeongChang Special Olympics in South Korea "will be held Tuesday at the YongPyong Dome in the YongPyong Resort, Gagwon province." About 3,300 athletes and officials form 111 countries "will compete in the eight-day athletic contest" (KOREA HERALD, 1/27).