Slam dunk summer coup for Macau

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 March, 2007, 12:00am

Fans hit jackpot as Cavaliers and Magic join Manchester United in a double treat

A galaxy of superstars from NBA forward LeBron James to Manchester United's twin strike force of Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney will be on show for Hong Kong fans this summer - in Macau.

To celebrate the opening of the US$3.2 billion Venetian Macau-Resort Hotel in August, exhibition games have been planned featuring some of the world's best soccer and basketball stars. Manchester United have been pencilled in along with American NBA teams the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Orlando Magic.

'With the opening of our 15,000-seat arena at the Venetian this year, we will undertake an ambitious effort to bring an array of professional sports, world-class entertainment and international prominence to Macau and the entire region,' promised William Weidner, president and chief operating officer of Las Vegas Sands Corporation, owner of the Venetian.

The two NBA teams will play a two-game series - one in Macau and the other in Shanghai.

Manchester United, meanwhile, will make Macau a part of their Asian Tour, which includes Japan and South Korea.

An NBA spokesperson in Beijing yesterday confirmed the Cavaliers, including LeBron James, and the Magic would appear in Macau in August. Ticketing arrangements for the games have yet to be worked out.

The NBA first broke free of convention and played pre-season exhibition games in China in 2004. On that occasion, it was the Houston Rockets, with Yao Ming, and the Sacramento Kings who figured in sold-out games in Beijing and Shanghai.

Hong Kong is also planning a couple of high-profile sporting events in July and August to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the city's reunification with China, including the EPL Asia Trophy that will feature Liverpool, Fulham and Portsmouth.

But the NBA spokesman ruled out any chances of the Cavaliers and Magic playing a game in Hong Kong.

'We would like to one day include Hong Kong in our plans, but for that to happen, Hong Kong sporting officials have to get involved to make it a reality,' said the spokesman.

Macau's growing emergence as a sporting hub was evident by the successful staging of the East Asian Games in 2005 among other world-class events.

Portugal also played in Macau before the 2002 World Cup and more recently European champions Barcelona showcased their skills in the city, thrashing then-Chinese champions Shenzhen Jianlibao 9-0 in a friendly in 2005.