Dragon Media’s 2017 China Sports Year in Review (Part 2)

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In our last article, Dragon Media recapped some of the biggest happenings in the China sports scene in 2017. We took a look at world-class sports leagues holding their first-ever events in China, and examined groundbreaking partnerships between Chinese brands and worldwide sporting events. This week, we review some new governmental policies that are beneficial to the sporting environment here in China, the rise of e-sports in China, and the role that technology has played in sports development here this year.

China’s Plan for Sport; Government-led Development of Sports

Sports Towns

On May 9th, the General Administration of Sport of China released the “Promotion of Sports and Leisure Characteristics of Town Construction Work Notice”. The notice outlined that up to the year 2020, numerous “sports towns” are to be constructed around the country in suitable areas. So far, 96 sites have been selected around China for these sports towns to be built.

The development of sports towns fulfills a need for innovation in the field of sports development in China. Those who live in these towns will be expected to participate in sports and wellness activities organized by the local government, helping more people become active and healthy around the country.

One Belt, One Road”

One Belt One Road is a development strategy to encourage economic cooperation between China and many other Eurasian countries, and sports will have a major role to play in the initiative. During the One Belt, One Road Summit held on May 14th and 15th, Chinese president Xi Jinping described the initiative as a means to improving Chinese society, with the focus being on culture, sports, and hygiene as areas in which innovation is needed to help further the collective goals of the country.

The sports side of One Belt One Road can be used as a tool to improve communication between countries, spur economic growth, and is also a way for Chinese sporting culture to spread across the world. It will also be important for the continued development of sports within China, and another way to build friendships between China and other countries.

Health and Safety in Sports

In November of this year, the General Administration of Sport of China released “Opinions on Further Strengthening the Supervision and Management of Marathons”, with the major point being “providing emergency service facilities according to the structure of the competition, as well as emergency medical staff to reduce the impact of major injuries that may occur during competition.”

Emergency services is a major requirement of holding sporting events. As sports continues to develop in China, and more and more sports teams are founded and games held, the need for proper rehabilitation and emergency services at sporting events has become more widely recognized. Although the pool of available workers in this area is still small, the demand for them is high, creating a very problematic shortage. This is however all a part of the process of growing sports in China, but a problem that nonetheless needs to be addressed swiftly and effectively.

Aside from the introduction of various governmental policies and notices on sports, another major development in the Chinese sports scene is the growth of e-sports. the Olympic Council of Asia has already announced that e-sports will be introduced into the competition at the 2018 and 2022 Asian Games. This truly shows the legitimacy of e-sports in its ability to directly compete with traditional sporting events in popularity. Mobile games are also quickly moving in the direction of e-sports, becoming more and more popular.

The Rise of E-Sports and Growth of Pro Gaming

League of Kings

The most popular Chinese mobile game—League of Kings—brought mobile gaming to an entirely new level, with over 200 million total registered players, and 50 million daily players.

The key to these mind-blowing numbers has been game-maker Tencent’s online and offline user systems, a media blitz involving television programs and live-streams online, League of Kings leagues in cities around the country, and the professional KPL League of Kings league. The final of the 2017 KPL Spring Season was held at Shanghai’s Oriental Sports Center Arena, with the 10,000 tickets for the event being sold out within 10 hours, and the event set new records and highlights for mobile gaming.

Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds

The second half of 2017 saw another player arrive on the gaming scene in China, and explode in popularity—”Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds”. The game truly arrived on the scene after breaking Steam’s online user record for a single game. Many League of Legends live-stream hosts turned their attention to the game, and the game even breathed life into internet cafes, where business has been on a steady downswing for a number of years.

South Korean media outlet stock.hankyung reported in September that Tencent had already spent 7 billion Won (about 40.6 million RMB) to purchase a 5% stake in Bluehole Studio, the creator of Playerunknown’s Battleground. Tencent now has operating rights to the game in China, and will spend a further 100 million RMB to develop a community around the game, which will include establishing an eco-system for the game, developing professional teams and leagues, and promoting the game via various live-streaming services.

2017 was also a big year for technology in sports. When sports meets technology, and technology becomes an even bigger part of sports, Artificial Intelligence will become the next great frontier in sports.

The Intersection of Technology and Sports; Big Data + AI = A New Trend

Ke Jie vs AlphaGo

One event that caused a stir not only in China, but around the world this past year was the development of AI company DeepMind’s AlphaGo Master. On May 27th, the final day of the Future of Go Summit saw Go master Ke Jie face off against the AlphaGo Master, with the final score being 3-0 in favor of AlphaGo Master.

Go is a board game of many strategies and possibilities, and thus has been popular for a long time. Using its top computing capabilities, as well its on-the-fly learning abilities, the performance of AlphaGo was a defining moment for the world of Artificial Intelligence.

VR Game-Watching Experiences

ESPN’s X-Games, an extreme sports competition, in collaboration with Fox Sports, introduced the option to watch the games via virtual reality (VR) in July. The feature allows users to completely immerse themselves in the competition from a visual and audio standpoint.

Using VR became a whole new way to experience the X-Games. In the future, VR will play a major part in the experience of watching soccer games as well, giving fans an entirely new way to watch a game.

SAP Sports One

The SAP Sports One platform is a way for various sports leagues, clubs, organizations, teams, and players to track and analyze statistics from practices to games. The platform can analyze all sorts of statistics and organize big data to provide a well-rounded picture of a team’s status, helping teams and players understand their strategies better, and perform at a higher level.

Big data in sports is still in its infancy, but more and more organizations are using big data analysis to select players, break down opponents, and thus improve their results. The power of statistical analysis thus cannot be understated, and the connection between sports and statistics is becoming more and more pronounced.

From “One Belt One Road” to the “Sports Towns” concept, as well as various governmental policies aimed at sports, it’s not hard to tell that China is prioritizing the development of sports. Technology’s role in sports development in China has also been important, as AI, VR experiences, and big data analysis have helped people gain a more complete understand of sports, and has also broken sports down into more of a science. Stay tuned later this month for Dragon Media’s preview of major sporting events and games in China to look forward to in 2018.

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Dragon Group Asia

DGA provides integrated marketing solutions for multinational companies in the US and China.