Qi Bing, Chairman of Xiamen Media Group Sports Co. (WANG XIANG)
In 1978, when China introduced its reform and opening-up policy, it hosted only six international conventions and exhibitions, according to web portal Whatsonxiamen.com. Today, the number and scale of the events has increased multiple times, showing new and innovative ways of exploring the economy.
“The expo economy is a very important part of Xiamen’s economy,” Qi Bing, Chairman of Xiamen Media Group Sports Co., said, sitting in a hotel lobby where an exhibition on sports gear was in full swing. “We have established international fairs like the annual China International Fair for Investment and Trade held every September, the China (Xiamen) International Stone Fair, and the China Xiamen International Buddhist Items and Crafts Fair, which are the largest fairs of their kind in the world. And in 2016-17, we started the China Marathon Expo.”
The first of its kind in China, the three-day expo from December 30, 2016 to January1, 2017, attracted about 90 companies, ranging from event organizers, noted sports brands, makers of sports equipment and paraphernalia related to marathons such as trophies, medals, whistles and timers, Qi said.
The expo came in the wake of the Xiamen International Marathon, started in 2003 with nearly 2,000 runners. Since then, marathons have become a craze in China with smaller, second and even third-tier cities also holding marathons. The Xiamen marathon, an international fixture today, is recognized as a Gold Label Road Race by the Monaco-headquartered International Association of Athletics Federations with a top prize of $40,000. It is followed by four shorter marathons annually, making the island a top destination for international participants.
“The Xiamen Municipal Government wanted to conduct the marathon but to have a company to do the marketing,” Qi said. His company, founded in 2005, is the organizer of the expo. “We want to make the expo a national event and a brand. Fujian Province makes a lot of sports equipment and paraphernalia. There are companies like Xtep, Anta, 361 Degrees, Jordan and Peak making sports items, and there are towns like Chendai and Jinjiang that are sports goods manufacturing hubs. Some of these companies in the past were making products for international brands like Nike and Adidas. After 1990, they began to make their own products and in this way, an entire industrial chain grew up in Fujian. The expo would be a good platform for these home-grown products,” Qi said.
It would also be a platform for the marathon itself. “About 30,000 people came to the first expo and learned about the marathon,” he said.
(Reporting from Xiamen)
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