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Can China be safe haven for sports amid global crisis´╝č
24/12/2008 9:50

When the global economic downturn hit, sports did not escape unscathed.

American insurance giant AIG, the shirt sponsor of Manchester United, went bankrupt in the global financial upheaval, leaving the England powerhouse feeling the heat.

Pundits have warned that a top English club may face closing down as English football has amassed debts of around three billion pounds (US$5.2 billion) at all levels of the game.

Formula One saw Japanese carmakers Honda and Suzuki withdrawing and French Grand Prix dropped. A third Japanese constructor Subarusoon followed suit by quitting the world rally championship. The worldwide financial crisis left major manufacturers shedding jobs and halting production lines amid plunging sales and revenues.

As sports felt the pain of the crunch, can China, the new giant and fast growing sport market, be a safe haven?

Since winning the bid for the 2008 Olympic Games, Beijing and other major cities in China have become the favorite places for international sport events.

The Winter World University Games takes place in early 2009 in northeastern city Harbin before southern metropolis Guangzhou hosts the Asian Games in 2010. In 2011, the summer Universiade will be staged in Shenzhen, which has been a window to China's economic reform since it became the first Chinese city to have a taste of market economy.

Beijing's state-of-art shooting range built for the Olympics will be kept busy in the following three years by holding World Cup, and Shanghai has won the permanent right to host the tennis Masters starting from next year.

Liu Qingzao, professor of Shanghai University of Sport, argued that China's sport industry was affected by the financial crunch, taking the sponsorship for example.

"Some sponsors have cut back on sponsorships. Others are having a second thought on their sponsorship decision," said Liu, who is also an advisor for next year's National Games in Shandong province.