Foshan, known as one of the eight divisions of 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup, was once underestimated when bidding for hosting this global sports event, as it didn’t even have an eligible arena.
This problem, however, was solved with the completion of the International Sports & Cultural Center. Though being the youngest arena among all the others, it is the most satisfying one because it has almost everything that FIBA needs. More importantly, FIBA takes it to the rest divisions and even around the world for promotion, making the International Sports & Cultural Center topped the list of all eight arenas.
(December 2, 2018 in Foshan, the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup Asian Qualifiers, China VS Lebanon. Photo by Xinhua News Agency)
“They will absolutely figure it out!”
Once again, the FIBA delegation came to International Sports & Cultural Center on Last Tuesday to see how things were going around here at the arena. And yet, the inspection was only taken half a day and the meeting for rectification was finished within 30 minutes.
“The delegation mainly came to see sports facilities this time,” said Zhong Chen, deputy GM of Ruida, a company specializing in the arena operation. “We had all gears ready. They’re so satisfied that they finished the inspection real soon.”
Last year in August, when the first time that Ashley Green, coordination director, and Jalinka Michaux, operation manager of the Basketball World Cup, came to the arena for the very first time, this place was completely a mess, not to mention there was a blackout on that day. But after the inspection, Ashley said that our design was astonishing with full functions that could completely met FIBA’s demand. He believed that this arena would be one of a kind.
In fact, FIBA had already decided to arrange a qualifying game at this arena in December. It was only two months away before the game, so lots of people, especially officials from CBA, were worried about if the arena could be completed on time. But Ashley, the FIBA veteran, told the others with excitement, “They will absolutely figure it out!”
Soon, in the early November, the International Sports & Cultural Center was officially launched with its first event being held: the 34th Hundred Flowers Award Ceremony and the 27th China Golden Rooster and Hundred Flowers Film Festival. Many actors, including Jackie Chan, Chiling Lin, Jason Wu, Zhou Dongyu, Huang Xiaoming and Liu Haoran, attended the ceremony.
Some actors required a private dressing room, while some needed a special channel. What’s more, the organizer even asked us to “create space” for a buffet for over 400 actors, guests, directors and judges. And we did it without a hitch, which impressed the crowd enormously.
After the event, Loong Lions Basketball Club decided to put some home games in Foshan. Later in December, the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup Asian Qualifiers kicked off, Team China wrestled with Team Lebanon. Li Nan, head coach of Team China, spoke highly of the International Sports & Cultural Center. “I feel great. I’ve been here before at the press conference. But back then, there were no floorboards. It’s obvious that the standard is higher this time; the hardware facilities are impressive. I told my guys that we have to win this game. When I was at their age, I didn’t have much chance playing at such a good arena. This place is really good.”
(In April, LPL Spring Season Final was played at the arena)
Sports event only accounts for 20%
The arena was considered to be a one for 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup with global standard when it was built. Covering an area of 155,000 sq.m, the arena has 15,000 seats along with 52 VIP boxes, and equipped with a three-layer center-hung scoreboard, a double-layer panoramic screen, a world-class acoustic system and other equipment to meet the needs for various shows and games.
Moreover, the arena has four locker rooms, with the two biggest ones equipped with private closets, shower cubicles, and even coach office, infirmary, massage room and dressing table. The multifunctionality of the arena is incredible. Through a couple of inspections, FIBA decided to take the operation of the International Sports & Cultural Center as the standard to the other arenas of the rest divisions for perfection.
But that doesn’t mean that the arena in Foshan needs no upgrade. When Nanfang Metropolis Daily’s reporter was walking around the arena, the workers inside were extending the screens, renovating the channels and distributing sectors. Previously in the Qualifiers, the height of the vehicle entrance was too low for the team bus to get into, so it was being fixed as well.
In the future plan of the arena, however, there won’t be just sports events. In fact, the sports event only accounts for merely around 20% among all operation categories, including the World Cup this year. Besides the Qualifiers last year, CBA games and 2019 LPL Spring Finals, most of the schedules are locked by concerts, awarding ceremonies, expos, company annual meetings and trade shows. There will be concerts delivered by Miriam Yeung and Raymond Lam even a week before the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup raises its curtain.
“Regarding facilities, our arena is topnotch domestically. The roof can bear weights to 200 tons, meeting various stage-building demands. So many organizers would love to put their show in our arena because we can deliver the best theatrics with good-performing box office.” said Zhong to the reporter.
It’s also been found that there will be two exits of the GuangFo Metro connecting the basement level of the arena. The ESTAMALL Shopping Center, linked by a flyover to the arena, will also be opened before 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup starts. Around the place, there are supporting facilities including serviced apartments, office buildings and hotels, which make people think of the Staples Center, the home arena of L.A. Lakers and Clippers. Zhong said, “yes, we’re not just building a new landmark in Foshan; we’re building a rising center and tourism paradise of the Greater Bay Area.”
(Company annual meetings and concerts are frequently held at the arena)
Wait for Team China for the next phase
Recently, there are a lot commercial activities going on at the arena, so there aren’t many World Cup elements out there. But still, a gigantic bracket chart stands in the front gate, showing which games will be played in Foshan with an extra line below saying “ we all expect Team China to come to Foshan for the next phase”.
Per the schedule, Team China will land in Foshan in the next phase if they can advance from the group stage. And all Chinese basketball fans are expecting their presence.
As to the group stage in the first phase in Foshan Division, Serbia, Italy, Philippines and Angola will be wrestling with each other, among which Serbia is the strongest that ranks 4th currently around the world and regarded as a force matching for the Dream Team. In the last World Cup and 2016 Olympics, Serbia made it to the finale without a hitch, yet beaten by the Dream Team and hence awarded the silver medal. If everything goes right, Serbia will send a formidable roster including 7 men who are playing or played in the NBA (like Jokic), to the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Italy will also have 2 NBA stars, Gallinari and Belinelli, lead the team. “We can make it to the final game. We’re grown; we have no limits.” said Gallinari, who plays for the Los Angeles Clippers, during the interview last week.
Angola and Philippines, not being top teams though, are still forces to be reckoned with. Philippines, in particular, is one of the major rivalries in Asia. And they already made it clear that they will do everything they can to lock Blache, their naturalized player, in the roster. In the meantime, China may also be affected by how Philippines performs this time, as China has to be the team with the most wins in Asia if wanting to qualified for the Tokyo Olympics. Team China has to keep an eye on the rest Asian teams.