Three weeks before Beijing hosts the Olympics, two weeks after Zheng Jie stormed Wimbledon, the same week that Yao Ming returned to action with the Chinese national team and Sports Illustrated China puts on its cover a tennis player who hasn’t played a professional match in four years and never won a Grand Slam. Apparently in the magazine’s Olympics-run-up newsroom, great legs beat greatness.
Anna Kournikova is pretty, and so is SI China (体育画报). But the only thing harder than finding a media kiosk in Beijing that sells the magazine is finding Kournikova on a tennis court. With the Olympics countdown clocks all over the capital now inside of 20, is it really time for a “Where are they now?” story? The cover line reads: “寻找库娃” (Searching for Kournikova). Even in a country of 1.3 billion people, it’s pretty safe to say that no one is.
One simple theory: The intended cover boy or girl pulled out at the last minute. Someone at SI China suggested using its US sister magazine’s Rafael Nadal shots for the cover. But the boss pointed out that SI China’s runaway best-selling issue is the swimsuit issue, so the art department called the US office asking for the next best thing. Thus did an irrelevant athlete appear on newsstands amidst China’s countdown to its most exciting sports moment.
The guy who we buy our magazines from in Beijing’s Central Business District keeps it simple. Here’s a translation of our conversation with him:
Us: What is she doing on the cover?
News guy: What sport does she play? Is she in the Olympics?
Us: She plays tennis. And she’s not good.
News guy: She doesn’t have to be good. She’s pretty! Don’t forget your Titan [sports newspaper].
Thank you, SI, for bringing to China the best in sports media.
For more Chinese sports news, check out China Sports Today.