Inline Skating Is Growing Fast on Island Nation
The Taiwanese apparently don't believe in starting small.
Their first-ever international inline skating event, the Taipei World Inline Cup 2005 (April 17th), is expected to draw 10,000 skaters.
That will immediately make it one of the largest skating events in the world. Only three other events -- the World Inline Cup marathons in Seoul, Incheon, Korea, and Berlin -- attract as many, or more, skaters.
The Taipei World Inline Cup
The Taipei event is the second stop on the World Inline Cup tour.
It will include a standard 42 K marathon, a 20 K half-marathon (only open to Taiwanese citizens), and a non-competitive 8 K skate.
The winner of the marathon will earn $5,250 (U.S.). In all, $20,000 will be divvied it up, making the marathon the fourth richest in the World Inline Cup.
Skating in Korea
Taiwan has become the latest hot spot for inline skating, following the lead of South Korea.
Although a latecomer to the sport, the island nation now boasts 4 million inline skaters, according to Taipei city official Liu Chia-tseng.
That's a lot of skaters for an island of 22 million.
Why South Korea and Taiwan?
South Korea and Taiwan have a few things in common, which probably explains their skating explosions. Both are highly industrialized nations that have become suppliers of cheap labor for the West.
In contrast, inline skating is still in its infancy in Mainland China, which has far fewer ties to the West.
Visitors to China report seeing a few skaters, and last September, the city of Suzhou, near Shanghai, hosted an inline speed skating championship. But the popularity of the sport seems modest, at best.
So far, inline skating has only become widely popular in industrial nations with large middle classes, which have the leisure time and income necessary to participate in the sport.
If the trend continues, it's a good bet that the next Asian hot spot will be the next place that starts churning out low-cost micro chips, running shoes and other factory goods.
Where will it be? ... Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia? ... That's the million dollar question.
(posted on April 2, 2005)
Copyright © 2005 by Robert Burnson