BEIJING, China - Stacey Allaster, Chairman & CEO of the WTA, has been awarded the 2013 Great Wall Friendship Award from the Beijing Municipal Government, becoming the first person from the tennis industry to win this award in its 16-year history.
The Great Wall Friendship Award, the highest level award of its kind, was established by the Beijing Municipal Government to acknowledge global professionals and experts from many different disciplines who have played instrumental roles in facilitating the development of Beijing.
"It is an honor to receive this award, and this is an accomplishment to be shared with the entire China Open team," Allaster said. "Together we shared a vision to build the China Open into one of the world's most exciting sports entertainment events in the world. With the success and growth of the China Open, the WTA will host 10 events in China in 2014 as women's tennis continues to grow and develop within the region."
Since its inaugural year in 1999, the Great Wall Friendship Award has been awarded to 176 professionals from more than 30 countries. Of those 176 recipients, only three have been from the sports industry - Allaster; the Netherlands' Hein Verbruggen, Chairman of the International Olympic Committee Coordination Commission for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games; and the USA's Stephon Marbury, the NBA legend who now plays for the Beijing Ducks.
Allaster was awarded the honor alongside 14 other foreign experts who have made a tremendous contribution to the development of Beijing. Anshun Wang, the Mayor of Beijing, presented the awards to all the 15 winners. Peter Johnston, Managing Director of WTA Asia Pacific, was present to accept the award on Allaster's behalf.
The WTA's strategic priority of growing the women's tennis brand and tournament footprint in Asia began in 2008 with the opening of its first office in Beijing and upgrading the China Open to a Premier Mandatory event - which has grown into one of the most prestigious events on WTA calendar.
In 2014, the Chinese Mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan, which are key growth markets, will host a record six WTA Premier and International tournaments and four WTA 125K Series events. A new Premier event in Wuhan, the home of the world No.2 and two-time Grand Slam champion Li Na, will make its debut during Week 39, in addition to two inaugural International tournaments in Hong Kong and Tianjin (Week 37 and 41, respectively).