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Club - in the international arena

Who benefits from Russian-Chinese cooperation on hockey box

China is in full swing preparing for the XXIV Winter Olympics. This is expressed not only in the construction of Olympic facilities and infrastructure, but also in the preparation of athletes and spectators for the upcoming event on a global scale. Traditionally, the men's ice hockey tournament, for which the Chinese side is actively preparing with the direct assistance of Russia, becomes the “highlight” of the White Olympiad. EastRussia figured out why the two countries needed interaction within the hockey box.

Club - in the international arena
Photo: Sport-Express,
At the session of the International Olympic Committee in Kuala Lumpur 31 on July 2015, Beijing was chosen as the capital of the Winter Olympic Games 2022. This was the starting point for close cooperation between China and Russia in the field of winter sports. The closest interaction is established in ice hockey.

This sport for the Chinese public is one of the most incomprehensible among other Olympic disciplines. "Celestial" is necessary not only to prepare a team to participate in the Games, but also the spectators, so that the tournament in Beijing will not pass without the interest of local fans.

The PRC, having a dynamically developing bilateral relations with Russia, turned to its partner for help in developing the problem sport for itself. The two countries are already actively cooperating in other areas: trade, economic, energy, space, cultural. The trade turnover between the states for 2018 a year increased 27% and amounted to $ 107 billion, which is a historical record for the whole period of cooperation between Russia and China.  

Now it is time to build closer relations in the sports field, first of all - in ice hockey. But here is not so simple and unambiguous, as it may seem at first glance. 

Both states consider cooperation in the field of sports as just another business project, in essence, no different from interaction in commerce, economy, and energy. That is, the most important thing is to get bilateral benefits at the highest level. All the smallest details and details for which the specialists in these areas should be responsible go to the background.

To promote hockey in China, it was decided to declare a local club in the Continental Hockey League (KHL), which is based in Russia and also includes teams from Belarus, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Finland, and Slovakia. The decision to join the Kunlun Red Star team in the league was made at the highest level. The agreement was signed by Chairman of the KHL Board of Directors Gennady Timchenko, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Kunlun Ngok Yang Yuu in the presence of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. Before that, no club had been given so much honor when joining the league.

Boris Mayorov, two-time Olympic champion in hockey, before the debut season of Red Star, was skeptical about the team’s prospects in the championship and the conditions for its appearance: “We are not talking about exploits at all. If Kunlun just becomes a good team, that's good. It’s early to think about the playoffs for the Chinese club. While this is more exotic. I don't expect any fireworks from him. And I understand that his entry into the KHL was primarily influenced by politics. ”

The Chinese club played in the season 2016-2017 is not very bright, although in the playoff Cup Gagarin still got. But I could not overcome the barrier of the first round of the tournament. In the 2017-2018 season, the Kunlun was left without cup matches.

Sports results at the moment are not the main indicators for which the Chinese club should fight. The main task is to attract audience interest. Such, alas, was not recorded. “Kunlun” because of problems with the arena in Beijing held matches in Shanghai, where he set the KHL attendance anti-record record - 550 spectators at one of the games of the regular season. At the end of the 2017-2018 season, the Beijing club was the worst on this indicator - only 2319 fans on average attended the matches. 

Now the Chinese squad holds their home meetings in Shanghai and again "storming" attendance anti-records. On the game with Khabarovsk "Amur" 18 December 2018 of the year gathered 742 viewer. “Isn't it too much for the city, whose population is 24 million?” - Aleksey Shevchenko, journalist of the Sport-Express newspaper, says ironically. Sports commentator is confident that the Chinese club does not help the development of Russian hockey.

Realizing that the Chinese players cannot match the level of the KHL, in China they decided to create teams of lower rank - for the Higher and Youth Hockey Leagues. Thus, the following came into being: “KRS-OERDZHI” (Harbin), “Tseng Tou” (Jilin), and in the MHL - “KRS Heilongjiang” (Beijing). Attendance of the matches of the teams from the “tower” is even lower than that of the “Kunlun”, and the youth team’s home games sometimes have to be held in the arenas of rivals from Russia, since the own court is not always ready to accept the games.

The most interesting phenomenon, of course, happened in the VHL tournament. It has long been accepted to the name of the league to add the name of the official sponsor of the season. And so, in the 2018-2019 season, the tournament was named “VHL - Silk Road Cup”. In fact, the current hockey league season is being held by the Russian Hockey Federation and the China Hockey Association. The brightest advertising of the project “New Silk Road”, on the development of which Chinese leaders are so actively working. The Russian side is also directly involved in the development of this project and wants to take one of the key places in it.

“With the support of the leaders of China and Russia, we have achieved cooperation in various fields,” said the chairman of the Center for International Culture of China, Lun Yu Xiang. - We signed an agreement on the creation of the “Silk Road Cup”. This is very important for the development of China hockey and the strengthening of relations between our two countries. We are very grateful to FHR for helping to create this project. The heads of Russia and China highly value the development of hockey in our countries. We will learn from our Russian colleagues. First of all, to develop our youth, to train them in hockey. ”

Another important element in hockey cooperation between Russia and China is the Russian-Chinese Youth Winter Games. Within the framework of the event, competitions in Olympic sports are held. In the hockey tournament, competitions are held among athletes who are not older than 17. The first such competition was held in 2016 in Harbin. In the opening match between the hockey teams, the victory of the Russian squad with the 35: 0 score was recorded.

Two years later, a competition between Russian and Chinese athletes took place again in Ufa. They were attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin. This time in the hockey match, the score turned out to be slightly less crushing: 14: 0 in favor of the Russian national team. Two subsequent fights were held in mixed compositions. As a result - the victories of the players who played in the form of the Russian squad 14: 3 and 8: 5.  

On Sakhalin, from 8 to 17 in February of 2019, the first Winter Children of Asia International Sports Games will be held. The competition will be attended by guys no older than 16 years. These competitions are positioned as one of the stages of training athletes for the White Olympics in Beijing. There are certain doubts that some of the participants in these battles from the Russian side will be able to break into the main team of their team, but the most successful representatives of the Chinese team may well fight for the chance to be in the ranks of their main ice squad.

At the moment, the Chinese team performs in the Second Division of Group A of the World Ice Hockey Championship. This is the fourth largest echelon of world hockey. To get to the elite, the “smithy of the world” at best takes three years. There are big doubts that this is the main goal of the “heavenly” squad. Most likely, the main task of the “desperate guys” from China will be no worse than the team of South Korea at their home Olympiad 2018 of the year.

Of course, it is still early to draw final conclusions about the hockey Russian-Chinese cooperation. We can safely say that the Russian side is actively helping to develop a new sport for the Chinese on the eve of the home Olympiad. "Country of Dragons", in turn, makes substantial cash injections into the Russian economy. 

The most correct option is to consider cooperation of the two countries in hockey as one of the elements of global interaction between Russia and China on the world stage. In modern conditions it is very important to maintain good neighborly relations with its main partner. 

Yes, the Russian side had to make many concessions in relation to the Chinese: to provide great indulgences for entering the Russian hockey market, to train athletes from the heavenly realm from scratch, to create wide opportunities for Chinese teams to play practice on Russian grounds. However, if you look at it as an element of a big political game, the Russian Federation was able to provide a new version of close cooperation with the People’s Republic of China and even more firmly tie itself to friendly relations with its neighbor, while winning certain positions on the world stage.
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