TianjinEquine Culture City - Tianjin, China
There are few single venue projects in the world today quite as bold as Tianjin Equine Culture City (TECC). It is ambitious on a scale that converts handily into raw figures. The 3.3 million square metre development in northern China will cost US$4 billion, with the initial US$2 billion phase expected to be completed by 2015. An estimated 200 million to 300 million people are estimated to be capable of reaching the venue and its surrounding entertainment and leisure complex by high-speed train. It is hoped the complex will go some way towards exploiting the enormous potential of horse racing and equestrianism in what is now the world’s second biggest economy.
TECC will be the product of a new joint venture, Hua Zhi Jie Horse Industries, which will be based in Tianjin. One half of the partnership is the Tianjin State Farm Agribusiness Group, a giant conglomerate with interests ranging from food production to turf farming to property development. The other is a name more familiar to those in horse racing: the International Equine Group is the investment arm of Meydan Group and TAK Design, developers of Dubai’s mammoth Meydan Racecourse.
“Meydan’s success since its launch and its continued growth potential makes it an excellent model to replicate in a burgeoning economy such as China”
Where the creation of Meydan Racecourse in the Arabian desert was an extraordinary example of man’s capacity, given adequate resources, to transform his environment, TECC is a response to an entirely different set of challenges. The US$4 billion project is intended to create a permanent revolution in Chinese sport. Alongside courses fit to stage world-class races, it will provide everything required to nourish a fully fledged equine sports industry. There will be facilities in place to train 8,000 riders, breed 1,000 top-class studs, produce high-quality horse feed, hold auctions and host education programmes where the public can learn about the animals and the sport.
With the exception of the world-famous Happy Valley racecourse in the former British colony of Hong Kong, horse racing is new to modern China. Banned by Mao Zedong in 1949, the sport only began to reappear as a spectacle in the late 1990s. It was fully legalised in 2008, at the same time as measures were taken to liberalise the state-controlled gambling markets. Only a handful of major racecourses have so far appeared, with the Orient Lucky City course at Wuhan chief among them. The kind of conspicuous consumption represented by projects as lavish as TECC would once also have been suppressed by the Communist authorities, but as is evidenced by the increasing resemblance of China’s major cities to those in the west and in other eastern powerhouses, that too is changing.
The progress of TECC, then, should provide a fascinating insight into how international practices are reconciled with the vagaries of Chinese culture under what remains a hugely domineering government. Certainly, the comments of Meydan chairman and chief executive Saeed Humaid Al Tayer at last November’s signing ceremony were revealing.
“Meydan’s success since its launch and its continued growth potential makes it an excellent model to replicate in a burgeoning economy such as China,” he said. “It is a significant partnership and we are very bullish about the growth prospects presented there. We hope to lend our expertise and extensive experience in positioning horse racing, so that it not only promotes the sport, but supports its related industries and provides viable economic returns to the people of China, at the same time allowing horse racing to be seen as a prestigious sport, and a symbol for luxury, lifestyle and culture.”
This feature appeared in the July 2011 edition of SportsPro. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.