The ISU should consider reassigning Cup of China to another country: Discuss
After attending both competition days at this year's Cup of China, I was dismayed to see the very poor attendance. There were not more than a couple of thousand people in the stands on Friday night and maybe less than 5000 on Saturday for the free skates. In a city of over 15 million people, that is inexcuseable. And frankly, almost embarrassing for the organizers and sponsors--of which the primary is Samsung, a Korean company. Why is this?
--Consistently poor marketing? I don't know if there is behind-the-scenes issues between the Federation and Samsung that get in the way of effective marketing.
--Friday afternoon traffic (which is admittedly one of Dante's Circles of Hell in Beijing)? though that doesn't explain why there was no flood of people coming in at least for the Mens and Pairs short. And doesn't explain Saturday's relatively poor showing either.
--Ticket prices? Maybe a little high by local standards but not for the die-hards and not for most casual fans either. People with an interest in watching skating tend to be pretty Chinese middle class, not migrant workers. And this year, cheap student tickets were offered for the equivalent of less than USD 5.
--Organizers don't care and aren't under pressure to sell tickets, as Samsung is being a magnanimous sugar daddy? Actually, I have no way of knowing if this is true or not. I've always found it curious that a Korean company rather than a Chinese one is the major sponsor of his event. I don't know when Samsung's contract runs out, maybe there will be a change then? But Samsung would have every reason to WANT big attendance.
--No forced busloads of attendees? Don't laugh, many events in China have their attendance numbers bulked up by organizations (commercial, educational, and governmental) receiving a mass of free tickets, with the stipulation that they produce a certain number of attendees from their employee/student ranks. Said employees/students are then required to make an appearance, but at least they aren't out any money for tickets or transportation to/from. Usually reserved for major events though, like Shanghai Expo and Beijing Olympics. Not for minor or niche events such as figure skating.
--Beijingers just don't get into figure skating? Maybe this is the crux of it. But in a city of over 15 MILLION people, when you can't find at least 10-12,000 of them to stick in an 18,000 capacity arena, it's pretty sad.
--Shen and Zhao retirement? Possibly, they were always a big draw. A Cup of China without them feels...a bit empty.
I have been to every Cup of China since it was granted by the ISU--with the exception of 2006 held in Nanjing and 2007 held in Harbin (moved because the venue was under reconstruction for the 2008 Olympics). I think this is the worst year by far for attendance of any of the Beijing competitions. Economic conditions here are definitely not a factor as they might be elsewhere.
Perhaps the ISU should reconsider the Cup of China, and relocate it to the Cup of ??? --someplace where it will get enthusiastic support and attendance. We'll see what happens for the Grand Prix Final next month in Beijing. Without a major marketing push, I don't expect attendance to be much better, though. It's a frustrating situation, and I'm sure the skaters themselves would rather have some sort of crowd than an arena of mostly empty chairs. And yes, I'm aware of the politics involved, and that the ISU doesn't want to upset the Chinese federation--but the threat of pulling it and relocating might be enough to get some momentum going to improve the situation.
Skating is art, if you let it be.
I suggest Cup of India or Cup of Australia. Nobody really likes going to China to compete, let me tell you.
Cup of Korea would probably be most appropriate, to take advantage of all the fans Yu-Na has brought into the sport.
Waiting for on-ice perfection.
Cup of China had a great audience turnout when Yu-na was there two seasons ago. There's a huge Korean population in Beijing & she has her fair share of Chinese fans. It was like a prelude to GPF 08, where she was showered by dolls. Mao's also beloved in China. Maybe you just need the right stars to attract a less-interested crowd. To even out audience rates in the different GPs, maybe ISU can assign the big stars where they are needed. SA, SC and NHK have great attendance rates, even when the "big names" of the sport are absent, because there are many figure fans who enjoy the sport itself. In China, or Korea for that matter, attention is focused on the actual skaters (fan-based audience).
Bona Fide Member
Good point. Maybe allow less well-attended GP's to have first picks over well-attended ones? Of course, the well-attended federations will never agree... Anyway, the nations with the biggest number of skating fans already have their GP's, except for Korea. But Korea has just one single star, and should Yu-na stop competing, the number of figure skating fans in Korea could go down drastically. And right now, it's not clear that anyone in Korea could pick up where Yu-na leaves off.
Originally Posted by dlgpffps
However, maybe it's worth it for ISU to stick it out with Cup of China a little longer. Historically it was only the Pairs event that was at all competitive. But this year there is finally a ladies' contender that got a decent showing (4th in both SP and FS), and dance team that placed 5th. And when Han Yan gets into the senior ranks, hopefully on the tail of good showings of JGPF and JW, he will also do well in men's event. It's hard to motivate people to attend when there are few local talents. The new ones coming up in China are all still relatively obscure. Once they get some results at the international level, then there will surely be more local interest. On the other hand, having Cup of China allows more Chinese athletes to compete and get some experience; without it, surely the nascent Chinese skating tradition will just go downhill.
It takes time to build a skating tradition and community -- fans are not going to flock in until local athletes start showing results, and results are not going to come until years of sustained athlete development and investment from the federation. Even a nation with a great skating tradition like Russia can go through a period of poor results, not to mention a new country with little coaching resources and poor funding.
So I advocate some patience. With the new crop of skaters coming up in China, perhaps there's still some hope for the future. Bingwa Geng's showing was perhaps the best since Lulu, and soon Zijun Li will be joining the senior ranks too. Sui/Han seems to be going in a great direction in pairs. And Han Yan in men's. As they start to bring in concrete results, I'm sure attendance will rise, too.
No matter what, the "potential" is there. As was mentioned, there are 15 million people in Beijing. It's just a matter of having some hometown heroes to root for!
The crowd reaction was so poor for most skaters! Just barely polite applause 90% of the time. The crowd only went nuts for Sui/Han. They just went crazy. Maybe the crowd volume didn't come across on TV unless they were really going nuts like with Sui/Han. I don't think they will take it out of China. North America has two and europe has two and asia has two. The ISU is trying to be diplomatic about it. Maybe if younger Chinese singles skaters get better like the pairs crowds will be better.
Bona Fide Member
I've thought about what it would be like to have a GP event in each continent. Unfortunately, not all of them are too involved in figure skating.
Yes, mostly just polite applause for most skaters, though to be fair, most of the routines of the competition only merited polite applause. I didn't see any standing-ovation worthy performances. Besides Sui/Han, who earned a lot of applause on the "cute kids" factor even before they skated, there was Verner--esp FS--had a very enthusiastic response and Joubert always has a gaggle of young Chinese ladies cheering for him. Mainly, the issue is not enough pairs of hands in the arena to do the clapping in the first place.
Originally Posted by gmyers
BTW, the Koreans used to be pretty good about attending, Yuna or not, though of course when she was there, it really swelled the ranks. However, when the Korean currency (won) devalued greatly against the Chinese renminbi a couple of years ago, Beijing lost about half of its sizeable resident Korean population--neither corporate families nor students could afford to stay on.
But without better Chinese public participation, it's a pretty hollow GP event. I get it that it takes time--many years--to build up interest in a sport, but what I don't get is that there is no evidence that local Federation/sponsors are even trying or even care. I suppose as long as there is a sponsor(s) who will pony up the cash necessary to take care of the costs of venue, logistics, the invitees' and judges expenses, and the prize money, that they feel the empty chairs/slow ticket sales don't really matter.
I have often wondered if moving the Cup of China venue to Harbin might not be a better idea, as that is the center of gravity for figure skating (and most Chinese skaters come from that province or the neighboring one). Harbin itself has several million people and more general skaters and skating fans. But the Chinese Federation which is Beijing-based, would be unlikely to agree to have CoC anywhere else. And getting skaters in/out of Harbin is slightly more work than Beijing.
Last edited by bigsisjiejie; 11-07-2010 at 05:31 AM.