05 SPORTS: First in Asia

Sports is an element in our life, either we involve in it for our physical fitness or we take it as an entertainment by watching the match. Sports is an important “investment” to a country as well because of it’s high returns for certain internationally well received sports events such as Olympic Games, Formula One Grand Prix, FIFA world cup, World Tennis Championship, The World Cup of Golf, etc.It is a prestige to a nation by winning an international sports title. Traditionally, most of the well received international sports events are mainly being held in western countries. I would like to cover few international sports events which were hosted by Asian countries for their first time.

  1. Summer Olympic Games
  2. Commonwealth Games
  3. FIFA World Cup
  4. FIFA World Women’s Football Championship
  5. Formula One Grand Prix

1. Summer Olympic Games

Olympic games or Olympiad, is a major international multi-sports event and it is also viewed as the highest prestige title in sports event. Ancient Olympic games were held in Olympia, Greece from 8th century BC to 4th century AD. The first modern Olympic games were held in Athens, Greece in 1896. It was governed by International Olympic Committee(IOC) which was founded by French educator Baron Pierre de Coubertin in 1894. Since then it was held once every four years.

The first Asian country to host the Summer Olympic games was Japan in 1964. It was held in Tokyo from 10th October to 24th October 1964. It was also known as the Games of the XVIII Olympiad. These games were also the first to be telecast internationally without the need for tapes to be flown overseas. Japan will be hosting 32th edition Olympiad — 2020 Summer Olympic games making Japan the first Asian country to host Summer Olympic games for twice. However due to COVID-19 pandemic hits, 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic games was rescheduled to July 2021. First in the history as well!

For further reading about Tokyo Olympic:-

Tokyo 1964 XVIII Olympiad FDC on opening ceremony day.
First flight cover for Lufthansa LH646 from Berlin to Tokyo

2. Commonwealth Games

Like Summer Olympic games, Commonwealth Games is also a major international multi-sports event held quadrennially since 1930 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. It involved all the athletes from Commonwealth Nations.

Malaysia became the first Asian country to host the XVI Commonwealth games in Kuala Lumpur from 11th September to 21th September 1998. It was well known as SUKOM 98. This games also recorded few “First” in the history, ie the first country to host the games with the head of nation other than the Head of the Commonwealth, the first country to host the games whereby English is not their first language and the first time ever the games included team sports!

SUKOM 98 Opening Ceremony Souvenir Cover with serial number printed on cover.

3. FIFA World Cup

FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) world cup is quadrennial international football event contested by the senior men’s national teams from six major continents of the world. It was first held in 1930 by Uruguay. So far, 17 countries have hosted the event with Brazil, France, Italy, Germany, and Mexico hosted twice.

Asia first hosted FIFA World Cup in 2002 jointly by Japan and South Korea, from 31th May to 30th June. It was also the first time such event jointly hosted by more than one country. Brazil won her 5th titles of the FIFA World Cup in 2002 against Germany by scoring 2-0 in final held at Yokohama International Stadium, Japan.

2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan FDC issued by Korea Post on opening ceremony day.
Stamp sheet issued by Korea with 32 countries flags printed and 6 special rounded stamps representing each continents of the world respectively.

4. FIFA World Women’s Football Championship

The first FIFA Women World Cup was held in Guangdong, China from 16-30 November 1991. United States won the first FIFA Women World Cup title against Norway. Like the male counterpart, it is held every four years with the latest 8th edition in 2019. Six countries have hosted the event with China and United States hosted twice. In 2007, China hosted the FIFA World Cup for second time in Shanghai. Interestingly, China was supposed to host the Championship in 2003 but due to the SARS outbreak in the country, it was moved to United States.

FDC with dated cancellation on opening ceremony day
FDC: back image

5. Formula One Grand Prix

“Formula” refers to the set of rules that all the participants’ cars must follow whereas “Grand Prix” means grand prizes in French and refers to a series races on purpose-build circuits. Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) regulate the Formula races. There are three divisions or tiers formula races, i.e. Formula One (F1), Formula Two (F2) and Formula Three (F3). F1 is the highest class single-seater auto racing and has been the premier form of racing around the world since its inaugural season in 1950. Formula One cars are the fastest regulated road-course racing cars in the world.

Traditionally, F1 championship are mainly based in Europes. It is then gradually expanded to non-European countries with Argentina hosted the first South American Grand Prix in 1953, followed by Africa (Morocco in 1958), Asia (Japan in 1976), Oceania (Australia in 1985) and Middle East (Bahrain in 2004). Malaysia hosted F1 Grand Prix from 1999-2017 in Sepang circuit.

Singapore hosted the first F1 night race in 2008 at Marina Bay Street circuit on 28 September 2008, 20:00 SST. Singapore is the first country in the world to held F1 championship at night.

FDC of 2008 F1 Singapore Grand Prix
FDC brochure

With the COVID-19 pandemic hits, what will be the fate of the major sports events across the world?

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