Six months into the year, 2011 is already proving to be the biggest year that China’s tropical island province has seen in terms of international sporting competitions. Chances are there will be an exciting event on when you next visit Hainan, so grab your diary and take note as we map out various sporting events throughout the year.

Hainan, China’s southernmost province, is a tropical island located in the South China Sea. Located on the same latitude as Hawaii, the island experiences near-perfect weather year round, with 300 days of sun. While it has been a top holiday destination for tourists from Mainland China, until recently it has remained virtually unknown to the rest of the world.

All this is changing and it’s changing fast with the Chinese Government’s 10-year plan to make Hainan a top international tourism destination by 2020. The plan that was kicked into action in 2010 has seen developers and investors flock to the island to take advantage of this relatively untouched paradise and its rising international reputation.

Luxury resort brands the likes of Hilton, Mariott, Sheraton and more have appeared all over the island with over 100 resorts in Sanya City alone. Cocktail lounges, nightclubs and restaurants featuring everything from international favourites to local specialties have materialised in Hainan’s modern cities, Haikou and Sanya. And then there is Phoenix Island, a man-made private luxury island with a 7-star hotel and 5-star boutique apartments, a yachting club, sports arena and world-class shopping set to be completed by 2014.

The world is starting to catch on, with politicians heading to Hainan for international conferences, and the Miss World Beauty Pageant held on the island five times. Clearly, this little island is set to be a huge success as an international resort destination. But if that isn’t enough, Hainan also has its sights set on becoming a top destination for international sporting events.

In the past, China has never been associated with surf, but Hainan is changing the way that the international surfing community views the country. Consistent waves crash on practically deserted beaches with year-round warm water and tropical sun, but the pros are catching on and these beaches won’t remain deserted for long. A range of surfing contests have been held on the island in recent years, the most notable being the international Quiksilver Cup held three times.
 
March this year saw 20 sailing teams from the US, Britain, Australia and other countries take part in the 2nd Tour of Hainan International Sailing Race. In April, competitors in the Provincial Youth Track and Field Championships competed in Hainan.

From the 1st to the 14th of this month, 12 teams from different provinces and enterprises around China will participate in the National Dragon Boat Invitational Tournament held in Yingbin Peninsular in Hainan’s Chengmai County. July will see the island host the Hainan Provincial Football Championships.

This year will draw big names in golf from around the world for the Omega Mission Hills World Cup held from November 24 – 27. This will be the first time that the World Cup – one of the most prestigious golfing events in the world – will be held in China’s tropical island, and will see 56 professionals from 28 countries compete. Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer, Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Steve Ballesteros, Jack Nicklaus and Bernhard Langer will be amongst the participants competing for the US$7.5 million prize fund.

October will bring cyclists from around the globe for the 6th Tour of Hainan International Cycling Race, and December will be a busy month for Haikou, the island’s capital, with the 3rd National Golden Coconut Amateur Golf Open and the 1st International Women’s Football Club Team Competition with 16 teams from the US, Canada, France, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Brazil, Japan and South Korea.

If 2011 is the busiest year the island has seen in terms of international sporting events, 2012 is set to be even bigger. Kicking off the year around February 17 – 19, the prestigious Volvo Ocean Race will stopover in Sanya City in Hainan’s South, conveniently timed to coincide with Chinese New Year celebrations on the island.
 
The race considered the ‘Everest of Sailing’ starts in Alicante, Spain in October this year and ends in Galway, Ireland after the 11 teams have crossed over 70,000km of sea in nine months.

For such a small island, Hainan has clearly already made a big name for itself in the international arena, and this reputation is only going to grow. We can’t wait to see what 2012 has in store.

 
 
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