Team China emails revealed
China thought Leeds "too expensive" and believed they could commute to Cardiff
Two months before the Chinese Olympic Team arrive on campus this paper can reveal that the final details of the contract are yet to be agreed.
Private emails obtained by Leeds Student show that the University has stopped at nothing trying to accommodate the best team in the world. The University and Leeds City Council have offered everything from extra long beds, to two-ring hobs and blue hockey pitches. However, these details have caused a delay in finalising the team’s stay.
The correspondence, acquired through the Freedom of Information Act, reveal that many discussions have been lost in translation, with the Chinese boxing team believing they could commute to Wales to train every day.
The University and Leeds City Council are keeping the amount of profit they will make from the visit quiet, telling this paper it is “commercially sensitive”. The deal is thought to be getting the University hundreds of thousands of pounds to be reinvested in “ongoing management and improvement of the student-facing services.”
Mr Yang, of the Chinese Olympic Committee, said he was confident that Leeds would, make a “very good” training base for the team.
Vice Chancellor plays ping-pong
Prior to their arrival, VC Michael Arthur was asked to take part in a game of ping-pong with the Chinese Olympic Committee at a welcoming event. The University approached Mr Arthur to ask if he was “OK to join in, not keen but willing if necessary or not prepared to do this under any circumstances.”
Despite agreeing to participate, the VC lost the match.
Extra long beds, crowd simulators and £1000 tables
While all parties signed an overarching deal or ‘memorandum of understanding’ at this event the final contract binding them to the deal remains unsigned. According to Matt Davison, the University’s Olympic Programme Officer, this is not uncommon.
“Loughborough University, who are working with team GB, have only just signed their contract.”
He added that the team had been “quite specific” and assured Leeds Student that the University and Council are adopting a “‘no surprises’ approach” to ensure facilities are up to scratch for the athletes.
To simulate the experience of the Games, the team have requested crowd noise simulators, imported table tennis tables from Rotterdam (costing nearly £1000) and red floors in the training rooms.
When the University was unable to provide blue hockey pitches, the team opted to train in Wakefield.
To make the time that they are not training as comfortable as possible, the team have been asked if they need extra long beds and VIP guests have been offered double beds. On the back of consulting Red Chilli restaurant about the team’s possible dietary requirements, organisers have now invested in ‘two ring’ hobs for the athletes to cook with.
Lost in translation
The messages expose a series of miscommunications with the Chinese committee, who believed that a daily commute from campus to Cardiff was a feasible option for its boxers.
The Council’s Olympic Project Manager said in one email: “They want to be based in Leeds but training in Cardiff! I did mention the 3+ hour drive.”
Matt Davison commented: “On a map, these places look like they’re just down the road but obviously that’s not the case.”
“Tooo toooo expensive”
Matt Davison said: “everything is being paid for at corporate rates: the food, accommodation and the sports facilities.”
With over 100 athletes and dozens of support staff expected over two-weeks in July, the team could bring in well over £50,000.
The University told Leeds Student:
“this year we have taken the Chinese booking instead of some of the conference business we would normally take”, adding that facilities used, like The Edge and Storm Jameson, will have the money earned reinvested in them.
Despite being one of the fastest growing economies in the world, one Chinese representative told the Council he thought the cost of using campus was “too tooo toooo expensive.”
Matt Davison responded, “I think everybody would probably think that. Other nations thought we’d pay them to come here.
“This is the first time that the Chinese have done a multi-sport training camp in the build up to the games, so I think it’s a learning curve for everyone involved. This is new ground for us too.”