2018Jul 4

SPAD in China Series: Hanging out in Hangzhou

Crowe profileBy: Kirsten Crowe

After a long few days of travelling we finally arrived in Hangzhou, excited to see what our first destination in China had to offer us. We were warmly welcomed into the Zhejiang University of Finance & Economics (ZUFE), where we would be spending 9 nights in residence. During this stay we learnt lessons about traditional Chinese calligraphy, Kung Fu, Chinese university culture, zodiac lessons and much more. Most importantly, we were able to immerse ourselves in the many beautiful and eye-opening sights that surrounded us. Hangzhou would be the smallest of the three cities we were visiting – with an impressive populationCrowe 7 of 9.468 million. To put that size into perspective, Hangzhou is nearly 3.5 times the size of Toronto. The visible amount of high rise apartment buildings helped to put the population into perspective. Arriving in Hangzhou provided quite an eye-opening experience as well as the opportunity to compare my expectations to the reality that China is.

Over the 9-day span we were fortunate to visit the following sights: The Singapore Business Center, West Lake, Jinlun Sport School, the National Tea Museum’s beautiful green tea plantation where we learnt about China’s long history and evolution of tea, a beautiful light display in downtown Hangzhou, a riverboat ride through the Grand Canal to see various fan/umbrella and history museums, a cross-border e-commerce company, the Alibaba campus, and finally the 2016 G20 Summit location. Each of these sights allowed us to meet individuals who impacted our thinking and perception of sport and businesses in China.

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We were told that West Lake is a must see when visiting Hangzhou. The drive to the lake was so beautiful, and much different than any other part of the city we had seen thus far. I noticed that the highways were extremely intertwined and groomed nicely with greenery and lined with flowers. The 1,600-acre natural jewel is surrounded by a lush green shoreline and willow trees, with views of majestic mountains, ancient temples, traditional pagodas and bridges. After making it down the path to the lake, without being hit by any trolley cars, we Crowe 3enjoyed a boat tour to see the lake separate from the large crowds. Unfortunately, it was a foggy day but that did not change how beautiful the scenery was. It is easily understood why so many poets and artists throughout time were inspired by West Lake – as the area is so rich in tradition. Similarly, it is easy to see why the large waterway was used for transportation and trading in its time.

A sight that sparked all of our interests was the visit to the Jinlun Sport School – a school that selects children at a very young age to train at the sport in for which they appear best suited. The school prides themselves on training Olympians and has even had success 4 times in producing gold medal swimmers. This concept was eye opening as we saw four-year-old children file in a disciplined manner into the gymnastics area for practice that day. We were told that typically four hours a day are spent on training, after a few science and language classes in the morning. The sports that we saw at the school were tennis, basketball, gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics, swimming, track and badminton. Some of us even tried our hand at playing against young badminton stars – with no shot at comparing. It is safe to say that eCrowe 2ach of us gained an appreciation for their unworldly work ethic and drive that would be necessary to remain successful in such an environment. There is much to be learned from how universal sport is and how different cultures treat their athletes. Gaining this perspective was extremely valuable for us as we enter the sports industry, now with a better perception on the global sport market.

Lastly, we visited Alibaba, the world’s largest retailer, who employs 17,000 people. Its success comes in all forms – as they have surpassed all US retailers including Walmart, Amazon and eBay. Their business was founded by Jack Ma in his apartment, and to this day he has been responsible for their success. The beautiful campus has a river run through it, traditional Chinese buildings, and also statues to represent the hardworking employees. It is evident that their business model and goals are consistently changing with the world around them. They have tapped into numerous areas of the market that allow them to expand their presence. Technologies such as their mobile payment “Alipay,” “internet cars,” financial support and services have all helped Alibaba to become one of the world’s top 10 most valuable companies. We were honoured to meet with the Olympic partnership team which gave us insight on how Alibaba planned to leverage their partnership through marketing and activations for the 2022 Games. There was a lot to learn during this meeting that would relate to our future and current careers in sport. They also touched on how they would like to eventually expand to Canada so that their services can be available for Chinese tourists. Taking this perspective back to any career is an asset, as working with a global perspective and broad perception allows for creativity and higher understanding.



Overall, Hangzhou provided us with beautiful sights, a great opportunity to learn about sport and business in China and also to pick up on the rich culture in which we were surrounded. The lessons we learnt and the experiences we had in China are second to none and without the SPAD program we may not have had the chance to experience it otherwise.

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