Living in China, we can sometimes pine over or grow nostalgic for the sporting events we had back home. But while you might not be able to go to a live Premier League football match or watch your college basketball team play, there are still plenty of fantastic competitions in China. Below is my pick of the top 5 live sporting events in China.
Photo: Jesús Gorriti
China plays host to plenty of tennis competitions on both the men's and women's’ circuit. There’s the men's Shenzhen Open and women's Wuhan Open, both of which are held in September, as well as the China Open in Beijing in October, to name just a few. Yet, when talking about tennis tournaments in China, there’s one that can’t be missed: the ATP Shanghai Masters.
The Shanghai Masters comes towards the end of the men's annual campaign, a time when the top players are fighting for every tour point they can get in a bid to make it to the ATP World Tour Finals in December. This usually leads to a stacked line up of the world’s best players. A look at recent winners says it all; Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic.
The Shanghai Masters is one of the top tennis tournaments outside of the Grand Slams. If you live in Shanghai or are planning a trip, be sure to try to catch the sport’s top players in action.
Location: Hong Kong
The Hong Kong Rugby Sevens is less like a sporting event and more like a music festival. Think Glastonbury, think Mardi Gras, think Coachella. Take all of that and fit it inside Hong Kong Stadium over three days. Oh, and add some rugby in for good measure.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, what is rugby sevens? It’s basically a shortened, more streamlined version of rugby union. The teams are cut from 15 to 7, which leads to faster, more open and higher-scoring games.
The games are short at only 14 minutes (7 each half, duh), and they come thick and fast. In one day of the tournament, there are usually around 25 matches with most teams playing two or three times. The near-constant sports entertainment means there’s no real lull in the event.
As exciting as the rugby on the pitch can be, it's the atmosphere off it that really makes the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens an unmissable event. From the party anthems played between the matches and the stadium sing-alongs, to the thousands of people that dress up in costumes every year, to the madness of the boozy South Stand, it’s a carnival atmosphere that spreads throughout the whole city.
Sport: Dragon Boat Racing
Location: Guangdong Province
While many of the top sporting events in China are sports that originated overseas, one homegrown activity to make it on to my list is dragon boat racing.
At a glance, dragon boat racing may look like rowing, but it actually deviates in a number of ways. Firstly, the boats have bright and vibrant decorations and a dragon’s head attached to the front. Secondly, competitors do not row, they paddle. Thirdly, a drummer sits before the paddlers. Otherwise known as “the heartbeat”, this cox with attitude keeps the rhythm and pacing for the whole team.
Dragon boat racing originated in Guangdong, and although the sport is now more widely recognised around the world, the southern Chinese province is still the best place to see the sport. During the Dragon Boat Festival in June, races are held all over the province. From local competitions between townships to the International Dragon Boat Racing Tournament, it’s a sporting event with a whole lot of Chinese characteristics.
The races are not only a great sporting spectacle, but also an excellent opportunity to experience what is a vibrant part of Guangdong culture. You’ll also come across local music, dance and the delicious sticky rice dumplings known as zongzi at any race you choose.
Sport: Formula 1
Shanghai makes it on to this list again with the F1 Chinese Grand Prix, which offers spectators a very different, although just as prestigious, experience to the Shanghai Masters.
Formula 1 represents the glitz and glamor of motorsports and the sporting world in general. Multi-millionaire drivers racing the fastest cars from the biggest car manufacturers in the world — it doesn’t get more glamorous than that! When the F1 circus comes to town, it's an event worth catching. Be warned though, it’s loud!
There’s also plenty to do outside of the races, which take place over the three days of practice, qualifying and the main race. Parties are held at clubs and bars all over the city, making it a great option for a long weekend with a bunch of friends.
Sport: Long Distance Running
In what must be a contender for the most interesting marathon route in the world, The Great Wall Marathon takes place on China’s most famous landmark each May.
Thankfully for tired legs, the Marathon does not take in the entire length of the Great Wall (that would be a lot more than one marathon), but rather a section in Tianjin. Known as Huangyaguan or Huangya Pass, this part of the wall is literally translated to “Yellow Cliff Pass”.
Notably, The Great Wall Marathon is the only entry on this list where us mere mortals can sign up to join. If you’re yet to tick The Great Wall off your bucket list, then what better (or perhaps worse) way to do so than to combine it with a marathon?
If you can’t hack the full marathon, the competition also offers a half marathon as well as 10km and 5km runs. So what are you waiting for? Get registered, find somewhere with a crazy amount of steps and start training!
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Keywords: live sporting events in China
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