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Sports non-diplomacy

Sept 16,2017
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On Tuesday, Michael Whan, commissioner of the LPGA Tour, sent out an urgent email informing players about the last-minute cancellation of an LPGA event in China. He expressed his apologies for canceling the tournament and explained that a major political event was scheduled in Shanghai during the tournament and the local government could not approve any other events.

The Alisports LPGA, with a purse worth $2.1 million, was set for Oct. 5 to 8 in Shanghai. But just three weeks before the opening, China canceled it unilaterally, with some players having already reserved and paid for flights and accommodations. An LPGA player said she did not register for an event in New Zealand the next week to prepare for the Chinese event, and her tour schedule is now ruined.

This is not the first time that China has unilaterally canceled a golf event. In 2011, the Imperial Springs event was postponed for more than a month, only to be canceled two weeks before the opening. The Reignwood Classic in 2015 was also canceled. Korea’s professional golf association had also suffered from China’s unilateral cancellation. Korean and Chinese counterparts had agreed to hold the KEB Hana Bank Invitational in June, but China called it off, saying it did not have time to prepare for the event. It was at the height of discord over Thaad deployment.

In March, the Korean and Chinese women’s golf associations jointly hosted the SGF67 World Ladies Championship, but it was all a farce. China’s CCTV5+ broadcasted the event, but did not show Korean player Kim Hae-rim as she contended for the lead. Even when she won the event, she was shot from a distance only from her back. Lotte, which provided the Seongju Golf Club as the site for the Thaad missile defense system, was Kim’s sponsor.

Sources in the Korean sports industry who have worked with China on sports exchanges say common sense does not work in the country, at least in sports. China’s sports industry is growing in size, but its mentality is still infantile.

China has hosted major international sports events before, including the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. In 2022, the capital will once again host a world event, the Winter Olympics, and I am worried China might even want to cancel the Olympics then.


JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 14, Page 33

*The author is a reporter at the JoongAng Ilbo.

SUNG HO-JUN