Sunday, July 6, 2008

1.3 Billion Can Watch

Yi Jianlian fronts the media oncourt immediately after the game.

I am currently on the other side of the equator, more specifically China, and I can tell you that basketball here is alive and strong.

So strong, in fact, that basketball has become China’s number one sport. Its growth and development has risen as a result of the team’s emergence as a force on the international stage. Having an NBA superstar like Yao Ming promoting the game doesn’t hurt either. But the big guy is not the only famous face here. All the top players are stars in their home land.

Just to give you a taste of their popularity, they arrived at the hotel on Thursday night via police escort and they needed it. The hotel lobby was overflowing with fans trying to get a glimpse at these guys, so they needed assistance just to make their way to the hotel elevator. They did take some time to pose for photos and signatures along the way for a few members of the hotel staff.

Since Team China’s arrival into town, even the attention we draw from the locals in the city of Wuxi has changed dramatically. We had been able to roam around the city at our leisure, generating only the occasional tourist type glance.

Not anymore. We will now join the motorcade to and from the game, complete with our own police escort.

Game One will be telecast live throughout China so the likes of Peter Crawford and Greg Vanderjagt could potentially be watched by 1.3 billion people.

After this game, we will immediately depart for Ningbo, which requires another three hour bus ride. Here we will play the second and final game of the tour.

Again we will not be alone on the road. The two teams will also be joined by the marketing company hosting the event.

Anywhere from 60-100 media outlets will be covering our two games series and they will have their own bus.

And last but not least, the TV crew has their crew and equipment. All in all five buses will be escorted out of town headed for Ningbo.

It is truly an amazing thing to be a part of.

Basketball in Australia will find it difficult to operate at this level if for no other reason than the huge difference in population, but it does demonstrate how the success of your national team on an international stage really does go a long way toward boosting the profile of your sport on your home ground.

Peter Crawford being presented with the trophy.

My weekly column can be found in the Townsville Bulletin every Saturday.

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