And Finally

Here’s hopping

Can a Chinese schoolyard game become an Olympic event?

Here’s hopping

Olympic medallists of the future?

There are many people who admire the business acumen and the wealth that Bernie Ecclestone has attained from his tight control over Formula One. And few more so than Wu Yanda, who sees himself as China’s very own Ecclestone.

However, while the appeal of watching cars race at 360km/h has a proven track record – it can attract as many as 150 million television viewers per race – it is less clear whether Wu’s sport Douji will prove quite so popular.

Douji translates literally as ‘Cock Fighting’ and it is a game which originated in Chinese schoolyards.

Wu – who made his money in real estate – is such a believer in Douji that he has expensively rebranded it as Judose. He now controls all aspects of the sport, and has trademarked the name Judose in over 80 countries.

That’s important because Wu’s goal is to internationalise Judose. His dream is for it to become an Olympic sport.

So what is the game itself? Well, you can try it at home. It needs very little in the way of equipment or gear – although at least one playing partner is required. Simply grab hold of a leg and begin hopping. The aim is to be the last one standing (or rather, hopping). You can jostle your opponent in the hope of pushing him over, or just rely on your superior leg muscles to go on hopping for longer.

It may not have the intelligence of chess or the athleticism of karate but Wu is marketing it as a ‘martial art where no one gets hurt’.

The game also has the advantage of being flexible: it can be played by teams (often the case in school yards), or as a rumble (20 people; last person ‘hopping’).

Wu’s plans for world domination have been carefully mapped. He initially got universities interested in setting up amateur leagues. The game proved popular because it is almost impossible to cheat: you’re either a great hopper or you’re not.

In 2008 Wu then established a governing body to set the sport’s ‘international rules’, called the International Judose League, in Hong Kong. “It’s just like FIFA,” he says, referring to football’s powerful governing body.

This year he began televising Judose events on CCTV-5 – one of the nation’s biggest broadcasters – which counts as a fairly major breakthrough in terms of taking the game mainstream. The deal sees CCTV-5 getting advertising revenues during commercial breaks; while Wu can earn money from product placement at the events themselves.

But the newspaper China Business is somewhat sceptical as to whether Wu will be able to commercialise Judose as quickly as he would like. It quotes Zhang Faqiang, who as the vice-president of the Chinese Olympic Committee, has been keeping a keen eye on Judose’s progress. He believes that most internationally successful sports only begin to offer commercial opportunities after 100 years of operation.

Whether Judose will appeal to Westerners is more of an open question. Wu thinks that ‘occidentals’ prefer contact sports, and at its most feisty, he says Judose can be confrontational, and a bit like boxing.

But will it be taken seriously as a sport in the city destined to hold the next Olympics, London? Or will Londoners view Judose more as something to try for a bit of fun at the next office Christmas party, after one too many glasses?

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