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Macao launches the first Greater Bay Area sports and business conference 

The first day of the two-day event kicked off with speakers including sporting heavyweights Yao Ming and Li Ning.

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The inaugural Greater Bay Area (GBA) International Sports Business Summit opened today at the Galaxy International Convention Centre.

In his welcoming remarks, the president of the Sports Bureau, Pun Weng Kun, stated that the summit had “successfully gathered leaders from the international sports world who are here to have in depth discussions and share their experience in different aspects of the sports industry.” The two-day event, he added, would “lay a solid foundation to enhance Macao’s sport industry and position as a city of sports.”

[See more: This is the one thing Macao must do if it wants to diversify away from gaming]

Meanwhile, the co-chair of the sports conference, Jay Li, said that the GBA was “dedicated to nurturing…[the] sports industry strategically,” and that the summit would both promote the exchange of ideas and offer opportunities for networking. 

The GBA as a sports hub

The afternoon’s proceedings included an appearance from Joseph Tsai, the chairman of Alibaba and the owner of the Brooklyn Nets, who spoke with CNBC International reporter Emily Tan.

During the conversation, he addressed the question of tension between China and the NBA, which resulted in the ending of NBA streaming in the country. Tsai stated that “the NBA is in a very good place” in relation to China now and that the backlash was “all water under the bridge.” He stressed that the 300 million fans in the country were passionate about the league. 

Tsai’s talk was followed by a panel discussion on the GBA’s status as an emerging international sports hub. The three panellists highlighted the rapid development of the sports industry in the GBA. Galaxy COO, Kevin Kelley, stated that the gaming operator had been invited to offer the Galaxy Arena as a venue for the 2025 National Games of China. He noted that sporting events could be a springboard to enable visitors “to enjoy the rich cultural heritage” of Macao.  

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Speaking later on the sidelines to Macao News, Kelley said the recent sporting fiasco in Hong Kong, when soccer icon Lionel Messi failed to take to the pitch to the fury of fans, underscored the importance of risk management. “The more you do business with longtime, credible partners the less risk it is,” he said.

He also told Macao News that the Macao’s six concessionaires were “very much committed to growing the sports events. Gaming operators work very competitively, we always try to do one better than the other and that continuously raises the bar on these kinds of world class events.”

Sport in the GBA and beyond

During the afternoon, the vice chairman of Mission Hills Group, Tenniel Chu, said that the GBA’s positioning as an international platform for sports required high-quality and appropriate infrastructure, plus strong cooperation between the two SARs and mainland China.

The lead designer of the Kai Tak Sports Park in Hong Kong, Ismael Martinez Merchán, also mentioned that when designing sports infrastructure, three factors need to be considered, namely social impact, economic impact and environmental impact. 

The penultimate event of the day was a panel with experts such as the commissioner of Australia’s National Basketball League (NBL) Jeremy Loeliger, and the head of media at Extreme E, Dave Gillett, who spoke about the use of new platforms to connect with sporting audiences. 

Loeliger said that the NBL was “virtually bankrupt” before it was handed over to private ownership in 2015. However, the brand has since seen a resurgence, with broadcasting in around 40 different countries and on major channels such as ESPN. The new owners adapted the rules of the NBL to capitalise on the strength of the brand and repositioned the league as a springboard to the NBA for young players around the world, attracting viewership as far afield as Germany and France. 

[See more: Is Macao ready to be a ‘City of Sports and Shows’? Lawmakers have doubts]

Gillett discussed Extreme E, which promotes off-road electric vehicle racing. He said that despite being an unestablished brand, it has managed to attract broadcasting interest by being a sustainable form of racing and through its emphasis on gender equality, with a 50-50 split on male and female racers. 

The first day of events was capped with a panel discussion that saw Olympian Li Ning, the founder of the eponymous sportswear brand, and NBL legend and president of the Chinese Basketball Association, Yao Ming, speak about sports in China. 

Li asked Yao when the next Yao Ming would appear. Yao said “we should not look for the next Yao” but instead for the next Lin Shuhao, Zhao Jiwei and other equally gifted basketballers.

The two former athletes also shared their experiences during the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Li stated that he continues to apply the lessons that he learned from sport, and believes that sport can improve one’s ability to deal with success, failure and the pursuit of goals. Yao, on the other hand, emphasised the importance of staying curious and being able to work in a team. 

The GBA International Sports Business Summit will continue tomorrow with appearances from Olympic gold medallist and volleyball player Hui Ruoqi, and US basketball legend Dwyane Wade. 

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