At Beau­ti­ful China Night, Wiz­ards owner re­veals strong China ties

China Daily (USA) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - Con­tact the writer at chen­wei­hua@chi­nadai­lyusa.com. Chen Weihua

It’s not un­usual for the Ver­i­zon Cen­ter arena in Wash­ing­ton to have a strong Chi­nese vibe since it’s lo­cated right in Chi­na­town.

Its huge sign is bilin­gual in English and Chi­nese. Chi­nese cul­ture and her­itage has been cel­e­brated there for years in the Wiz­ards games dur­ing the Chi­nese Lu­nar New Year, which falls on Jan 28 in 2017.

On Satur­day, a lion dance and kung fun per­for­mance were staged be­fore the game and dur­ing half­time in a Beau­ti­ful China Night event as part of the clos­ing cer­e­monies for the 2016 China-US Tourism Year.

Li Jin­zao, chair­man of the China Na­tional Tourism Ad­min­is­tra­tion, cred­ited the trip to China in 1979 by Wash­ing­ton Bul­lets (the for­mer name of Wiz­ards) for trig­ger­ing China’s love for bas­ket­ball. The Bul­lets were the 1978 NBA cham­pi­ons and the trip took place the same year China and the US for­mally es­tab­lished diplo­matic ties.

The Wiz­ards lost 111-114 to the Mi­ami Heat on Satur­day night.

“To­day, many Chi­nese youth learn about the United States through bas­ket­ball, and many Chi­nese tourists go to the arena to cheer for their fa­vorite teams when trav­el­ling in the US,” Li said be­fore join­ing other dig­ni­taries in the lion dance eye-dot­ting cer­e­mony and later kick­ing off the game.

Li re­ceived a per­son­al­ized Wash­ing­ton Wiz­ards jersey from Ted Leon­sis, founder, chair­man and CEO of Mon­u­men­tal Sports & En­ter­tain­ment, which owns the Wiz­ards, the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals and other busi­nesses.

The 59-year-old busi­ness­man has been to China 11 times, he told the press on Satur­day.

He de­scribed the Bul­lets’ trip to China in 1979 as a great honor. “Now we also own a hockey team, the Wash­ing­ton Cap­i­tals, hope­fully to be the first NHL team in China, be­cause we want to be very, very sup­port­ive of China’s Win­ter Olympics,” he said. Bei­jing will host the 2022 Win­ter Olympics, mak­ing it the first city to host both the sum­mer and win­ter Olympics.

Leon­sis has strong ties to China not just in busi­ness. He re­called as a Ge­orge­town Univer­sity stu­dent about 40 years ago, Henry Kissinger, who was teach­ing at the school then, told them to “love and em­brace China … a China that will one day be the great­est power on earth … and a fan­tas­tic neigh­bor and part­ner.”

He called it des­tiny that he him­self now serves on the board of direc­tors of Amer­i­can Ex­press. Kissinger had served on the board since 1984 and still re­mains an ad­vi­sor.

Leon­sis has ex­ten­sive busi­ness ties with Chi­nese com­pa­nies. Alibaba is a big in­vestor in Groupon, a com­pany where Leon­sis served as chair­man and is now on the board. He also has close ties with Chi­nese in­ter­net com­pany Ten­cent, in­clud­ing the Riot Games pur­chased by Ten­cent and in stream­ing NBA games. He was in Bei­jing to open the China of­fice for Amer­i­can On­line, a com­pany he was once an ex­ec­u­tive with.

Lit­tle known about the busi­ness­man is the fact that he is also a film­maker, and the pro­ducer of the 2007 film Nank­ing, which is about the 1937 Nank­ing Mas­sacre com­mit­ted by the Im­pe­rial Ja­panese army in Nan­jing, China’s cap­i­tal at the time.

CHEN WEIHUA / CHINA DAILY

Li Jin­zao (left), chair­man of the China Na­tional Tourism Ad­min­is­tra­tion, re­ceives a Wash­ing­ton Wiz­ards jersey on Satur­day from Ted Leon­sis, founder, chair­man, ma­jor­ity owner and CEO of Mon­u­men­tal Sports & En­ter­tain­ment, which owns the Wiz­ards, be­fore the Beau­ti­ful China Night event at the Ver­i­zon Cen­ter in Wash­ing­ton for the China-US Tourism Year.

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