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Volume 6 No. 212

People and Pop Culture

YAO MING "was the super-modest, super-tall basketball star from China who took America by storm," according to Patti Waldmeir of the FINANCIAL TIMES. Now "he wants to make a difference back home." Yao arrived on the U.S. sporting stage "just as China was engineering a parallel rise in its global stature," from int'l pariah to global superpower. And by succeeding at something that millions of Americans genuinely care about, "he achieved more than an army of ping-pong-playing diplomats." Yao "made people start to look up to China, not down." With his playing career over, he is also "breaking new ground in the world of Chinese philanthropy." He "hopes to move towards transparency" in how his own Yao Ming Foundation, established to help victims of the '08 Sichuan earthquake, spends its money. But "when it comes to his plans for a business career to rival the sports one that ended prematurely," he does not have much to say, noting that his ideas are still "immature." Operation Yao the Businessman "has not yet really got off the ground." Still, one thing is clear: "making lots of money is part of the eventual plan." Is he happy "with the state of the nation that helped him become so famous?" Yao said, "Since the end of the cultural revolution we have made great achievements, but we can't stop. In Shanghai, Beijing, people are very wealthy, they have good food, nice clothes, good schools. But the spiritual part, that you cannot buy. We have to figure that out." Yao "has changed the way the world sees Chineseness -- and it is so much more than just a height thing" (FT, 9/20).

F1 CEO BERNIE ECCLESTONE "spoke recently in the motor home that he uses as a headquarters at Grands Prix races" with John F. Burns of the N.Y. TIMES and Brad Spurgeon of the Int'l HERALD TRIBUNE.

Q: There has been quite a lot of nervousness about the state of some of the F1 teams, and whether they are financially viable.
Bernie Ecclestone: How long have I been, really, in Formula One running the teams? 1970? Myself, when I had money invested -- nothing’s changed -- FRANK WILLIAMS [owner of the Williams team] used to come and borrow money from me to pay for his engine bills. Nothing’s changed. You go back to the Brabham days, when I really got involved in things. Dear old Frank used to come and borrow money, and he paid it back right on the dot. That’s how it was. There have been very rich teams, and teams that are struggling. Nothing’s changed. Just the amounts have gone up. The principles have all been the same. Formula One team owners always spend more than they’ve got. And they have to find the money.

Q: The critics say there are not enough teams, that half of the teams are in a very parlous financial state. And then there are more complicated questions about CVC (the venture capital company that owns a controlling stake in F1) and the division of revenues between CVC and the teams.
Ecclestone: Of which they get 62 percent. The difference is, we control what we spend, and they can’t. Because if you look at it, very few of them are business people. If you look at their history and what they’ve done, it’s pretty clear. They spend too much, it’s as simple as that. All of the teams in Formula One, including the ones at the back of the grid, could and should be making a very good profit. I can’t help them. If you give all of them 25 percent more next year, you’d be sitting here with me at the end of next year with the same stories.

Q: Does it worry you that people look at you and see you as being the tsar, the single dominant figure who controls the finances, who heavily influences every aspect of the sport? There can’t be too many people who have ever held a position in a sport such as you have now.
Ecclestone: I don’t know. I’m sure there has been. I’ve never thought about it like that. I’m doing a job, and I do the best job I can do. If you tried to run this whole business democratically, it wouldn’t work. Half of the people don’t agree with each other anyway. To get something done it would take two months where we need an answer in two days (N.Y. TIMES, 9/20).

BRIBERY CASE: REUTERS' Sheahan & Weir reported a German court said that a decision on whether Ecclestone "will stand trial on bribery charges is likely to be delayed until next year." The court in Munich said in a statement that "Ecclestone's lawyers plan to submit more statements related to the case and an imminent staffing change at the court will add to delays." SVEN THOMAS, a lawyer in Germany for the British billionaire, said that "he welcomed the extra time being taken by the court to reach its decision." He said that "his firm handed about 250 pages of documents to the court three weeks ago." Thomas: "There's a bit more coming, but not as much as that" (REUTERS, 9/20).

Bundesliga club TSG Hoffenheim has appointed PETER RETTIG "as its new exec chairman." The 50-year-old "previously worked as an advisor for Hoffenheim benefector" DIETMAR HOPP (SPIEGEL ONLINE, 9/20). ... Adidas AG appointed Multichannel Markets Chief Sales Officer ROLAND AUSCHEL to its Exec Borad, effective Oct. 1. Auschel will assume responsibility for global sales on a board level (adidas).

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EPL Sunderland "have sacked" head coach PAOLO DI CANIO "after a poor start to the season that has left the Black Cats bottom of the Premier League table." The 45-year-old Italian has won three of his 13 matches since being appointed in March and taken only one point from five league games this campaign. A club statement said, "An announcement will be made in due course regarding a permanent successor" (BBC, 9/22). ... Brasileiro Flamengo coach MANO MENEZES has resigned from his position "after the club’s 4-2 loss to Atlético-PR" on Thursday night (RIO TIMES, 9/20). ... Indian cricketer VIRAT KOHLI "is set to don the cap and blazer of the Border Security Force." As the brand ambassador of BSF, he "will boost the morale of its rank and file by periodically touring their stations of deployment and being the BSF's face at public events" (TIMES OF INDIA, 9/21). ... Former Board of Control for Cricket in India Secretary JAYWANT LELE "died of a massive heart attack at his residence in Vadodara on Thursday" (Indian BUSINESS STANDARD, 9/20). ... Former Iranian footballer HOOMAN AFAZELI "has been appointed as director" of Iran's U23 football team until the end of the year (TEHRAN TIMES, 9/21).

London Times' KEVIN EASON: "Alonso gives Webbo a lift home. Call the FIA quick!"

FourFourTwo's JAMES MAW: "I think Di Canio's reign at Sunderland panned out roughly how we all expected..."

London Times' MATT DICKINSON: "Did Sunderland speak to ANYONE at Swindon about Di Canio's, er, idiosyncrasies or just assume he was brilliant from one season's work?"

Autosport's JONATHAN NOBLE: "For those suggesting that slow down laps cannot be dangerous, just YouTube what happened between Leimer and Rossi after today's GP2 race"

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