China's richest man deepens sports foray with global marathons deal

REUTERS
BEIJING
Published 28.04.2017 00:07
Updated 28.04.2017 00:09
Wanda Group Chairman Wang Jianlin speaks before a signing ceremony between his company and the Abbott World Marathon Majors in Beijing.
Wanda Group Chairman Wang Jianlin speaks before a signing ceremony between his company and the Abbott World Marathon Majors in Beijing.

Chinese giant Dalian Wanda Group's sports division and Abbott World Marathon Majors (WMM) signed a deal that will see Wanda hold three WMM races in the Asia-Pacific region in the next ten years, including a race in China. The Abbott World Marathon Majors presently consist of six of the world's most well-known marathon races, including the Boston Marathon and the New York Marathon. A WMM China race may be inaugurated within three years, Wang told a singing ceremony in Beijing.

"This is the right moment for a world marathon to come to China," Wang said.

The Marathon Singapore, an annual international marathon race operated by Wanda Sports subsidiary World Triathlon Corp (WTC), is likely to be a candidate for one of the events, Wanda said in a statement.

Hugh Brasher, London Marathon race director, told reporters at the announcement that it may take several years before a Chinese city meets operational criteria to host a marathon event. Pollution is an element that needs to be addressed to hold a race, Brasher said, but other criteria, including financial and political support, are required.

Wanda has helped lead China's push into organized sports and sports marketing, as the government advances its goal of turning the sector into a 5 trillion yuan ($725.63 billion) business by 2025. Over the last two years, Wanda has sealed a series of high-profile sports investments, including buying WTC, the U.S. owner of the popular Ironman Triathlon franchise, and taking a 20 percent stake in Spanish soccer club Atletico Madrid.

Wanda last year also became a top sponsor of soccer's global governing body FIFA and said it will organise the first China Cup from 2017, and inked a partnership with international basketball's governing body FIBA. The group has said that it plans to create at least 10 major international sports events in China before 2020. In September, Wanda also signed an eight-year exclusive partnership with Badminton World Federation (BWF), the world badminton governing body.

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