The city of Qingdao is emerging as one of the world’s great sailing venues. This is not through a lucky accident of being on the right place on the map, but through long term planning and a willingness to invest in both infrastructure, industry and sporting events that promote progress. The Extreme Sailing Series is the latest word-class sailing event to be hosted by the ‘sailing city’.
The Extreme Sailing Series, which is a modern, fan-centric, innovation in competitive sailing, visited China for the first time in 2011, and the results have been spectacular in more ways than one. The event delivered some of the most extreme sailing, and compelling media output of the series’ history.
In the last 15 years, the list of cities able to stage international sporting events has grown substantially as governments recognise the importance of using sport to showcase infrastructure, investment opportunities and promote tourism.
In the sport of yacht racing, the makeup of the list of cities that are able to deliver world class events has changed significantly. This is due to a shift in the relative economic power of different regions as well as commercial promoters looking for more than just favourable wind conditions.
Cities like Cowes (UK), Newport (USA), Auckland (NZ), Capetown (South Africa), Marseilles (France) and Rio (Brazil) have staged well known sailing events largely because of being in the right place or through tradition, but in 2011, the criteria for hosting a major sailing event like the Extreme Sailing Series includes a demonstrable willingness by local agencies to invest in
Like many countries where trade is a major part of the culture, China has a long maritime heritage, however the 2008 Olympic Games provided Qingdao with an opportunity to promote the sporting side of sailing to the world. As well as the Olympics, the city has managed to attract events like the Volvo Ocean Race and is the base for China’s America’s Cup entry.
The demonstrated ability of Qingdao to successfully deliver big sailing events, combined with a larger investment plan for the city, was one of the reasons that attracted OC Thirdpole, the organisers of the Extreme Sailing Series.
While the America’s Cup hopes to deliver $1.4 billion dollars of gains to the city of San Francisco in 2013, the coastal province of Shandong has an investment plan of $38.6 billion to develop an ocean economic zone.
The Shandong Peninsula Blue Economic Zone will include programs for agricultural technology, new energy, international logistics, tourism and culture. 12 banks, including the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) have signed strategic cooperation agreements with the Shandong provincial government to support the plan.
Initiatives like the Shandong Peninsula Blue Economic Zone are bigger than just yacht racing, but events like the Extreme Sailing Series, are a great fit with a programme that has a goal to seek co-operation with businesses in China and internationally.
Rather than being complacent and trading of tradition, Qingdao is putting it’s money where it’s mouth is to focus on the development of a marine economy.
Creating an integrated programme that includes investment in infrastructure, tourism and culture gives Qingdao an edge over cities bidding for events based on their wind conditions alone.
Mark Turner, Chairman of OC Thirdpole, the organisers of the Extreme Sailing Series said:
When looking at where to stage events on a global tour, we have to consider a lot of things. Of course there has to be the right conditions for sailing, but the commercial considerations are incredibly important for us. The Chinese market is increasingly important for our partners and sponsors and there is also a growing appetite for this kind of sport by the Chinese people.
Qingdao has shown that it can stage huge events like the Olympic sailing in 2008. The Qingdao Volvo Ocean Race stopover was a great success and we are delighted to be able to stage the Extreme Sailing Series in China’s sailing city.
The Qingdao round of the Extreme Sailing Series was expected to be one of the most exciting and successful of the 2011 season, but the event delivered more than anyone could have imagined.
Day 3 of the regatta featured spectacular sailing action, with some of the world’s best sailors pushing the 40 foot carbon fibre catamarans to their limits in conditions right on the edge of the envelope for these boats. The Extreme Sailing Series lived up to it’s name with photos and videos of capsizes and crashes leading news bulletins around the world.
On the same weekend that the Chinese Grand Prix was delivering one of the most exciting and competitive Formula 1 races in a long time, China’s Sailing City of Qingdao was showing that it has what it takes to stage grand prix sailing events.
Article first published as Qingdao, China’s Sailing City is Looking for Extreme Growth on Technorati.