Snooker in China
Ding Junhui won his first world title at the 2005 China Open. CFP
AS one of world’s seven professional snooker tournaments, the Roewe Shanghai Masters is now in its fourth year, attracting top players and countless snooker fans. This year’s contest will take place from September 6 to 12.
Snooker is China’s latest craze, and in recent years top matches have drawn record numbers of viewers to CCTV’s sports channel (China’s national TV station). As two of the seven world professional tournaments are held in China, more and more Chinese contestants can be seen pacing around the green baize table.
Ding’s Success Boosts the Sport
Billiards, a form of snooker, is already among the most popular participatory sports in China. Lovers of the game can be seen everywhere, playing at outdoor tables in small towns and high-end billiards clubs in big cities. According to Wang Tao, an official of the General Administration of Sport, more than 50 million people in China play billiards and about 20 million devote considerable time to the game.
Wang Yan, a college student in Beijing, inherited a love of billiards from his parents. “It does not call for great physical strength; it exercises wit and will,” he explains. Aside from the inherent appeal of this sport, the success of the Chinese player Ding Junhui has boosted both snooker and billiards in China.
In the 2005 World Snooker China Open Ding won the first tournament of his career, this Chinese success sparking off a countrywide snooker craze. “For a sport to grow in a country there must be a national hero, and Ding Junhui fulfills that role in China,” says Barry Hearn, chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association. “Millions of fans would buy tickets to watch him play in the flesh, or switch on the TV for a televised game.”