When the Georgia Tech basketball team travels to China in November for its season opener against UCLA, the Yellow Jackets will have a full week of activities planned.
According to a tentative itinerary, the team will arrive Nov. 5, a Sunday, with a week of cultural activities in two cities and a visit to Shanghai Disneyland along with practices, an exhibition game against a local university and finally the game against UCLA on Nov. 11, a Saturday. The itinerary was part of the game contract, obtained through an open-records request.
After arriving Nov. 5, the team will practice the following day and visit the Alibaba headquarters in Hangzhou, a city of 9 million near the eastern coast of China. Team members are scheduled to meet Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, an e-commerce website that in 2014 became the world’s largest retailer.
On Nov. 7, the team will take part in a cultural activity, practice and travel to Shanghai, about 100 miles northeast of Hangzhou. The cities are connected by high-speed trains that can cover the distance in less than an hour.
The Nov. 8 itinerary includes an exhibition game against a Chinese college and a cultural tour. The next day’s plans include a practice, another cultural tour and a visit to Shanghai Disneyland. When Stanford and Harvard played in the inaugural game organized by the Pac-12, the teams visited temples, a museum and Disneyland and took a river cruise, among other excursions.
After one final practice, on Nov. 10, the teams play at 11 a.m. local time — 11 p.m. Eastern time Nov. 9 — at Mercedes-Benz Arena, an 18,000-seat arena. Harvard and Stanford played before about 7,200 fans in November. The contract stipulates that the game will be broadcast on “ESPN/ESPN2 or other comparable television outlet.”
The Pac-12 will cover the cost of 25 business-class tickets from Atlanta to Shanghai, up to 19 hotel rooms that are to be “no less than four-star western accommodation,” ground transportation and meals.
The contract also requests that the school bring president G.P. “Bud” Peterson, cheerleaders and Buzz. Peterson plans to make the trip. Tech also is expected to promote the game using “influential/high profile former student-athletes to help promote the game in China and otherwise.” Tech has an ideal candidate in former star point guard Stephon Marbury, who has played in China since 2010. One team, the Beijing Ducks, built a statue in his honor after he led them to a championship, and a postage stamp was issued in his honor.
Pastner is not particularly excited about the trip.
“I don’t want to sit on a plane for 16 hours,” he told the AJC shortly after the season ended . “However, it’s going to be a great bonding experience for our team, and we may never get that experience again. But I’m not looking forward to the length of the travel. I sure hope we win the game because it’d make it a much easier trip on the way back for me. But we scheduled it, so we’re going to go out there ready to play.”
Pastner may be underestimating the length of the trip. There are no nonstop flights from Atlanta to Shanghai, and the shortest one-stop flight is about 17 hours.