Author Topic: Shanghai Jai-alai Auditorium  (Read 11709 times)

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Offline KONDi

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Shanghai Jai-alai Auditorium
« on: September 29, 2015, 10:12:12 AM »
Dear all,

This is the story about the world's fastest sport at the Auditorium in old Shanghai. This is the story about Hai-alai...

Everything has started in the Autumn of 1928, when Mr Teodoro Jauregui went to see with Mr Felix Bouvier.

Mr Teodoro Jauregui had a dream...The dream to bring Jai-alai to Shanghai from his native country. He was a Spanish Basque and talented Jai-alai player. He was also the Jai-alai Marco Polo, a businessman that took Jai-Alai all the way to China from the Basque Country.

Jauregui brought his idea to Felix Bouvier.

Mr Felix Bouvier was an accountant by training, the Frenchman had first come to Shanghai in 1914, and worked with Credit Foncier d’Extreme Orient. In 1921, he set up investment banking house Union Mobiliere with a partner, A. Holstein, and in the same year, his own accountancy practice. The financial success of Union Mobiliere gave him a surplus of cash that he invested in projects in and around the French Concession. He owned Le Grand Garage, an auto service company also on Roi Albert, and later would be one of the owners of the Canidrome, the legendary greyhound racing track.

Bouvier (listed in "Men of Shanghai and North China.") - the man of power and well connected tycoon in Shanghai was an excellent choice on that time. He was the member of the French Chamber of Commerce and the Cercle Sportif (French Club) – he had both the resources and the network to make it happen.

He liked Jauregui's idea and set up a joint stock company with the French name "Parc des Sports" or the English name "Auditorium". The joint stock company launched a plan to promote Jai-alai in Shanghai by recruiting professional players from such countries as Spain, Egypt, Brazil and Cuba.

Jai-alai players have been travelling all over the planet since the nineteen century, but thanks to the effort of visionary people who had the courage to risk their money and put the strength to make happen...it happened in Shanghai.

The Auditorium opened on February 7, 1930, held the first Jai-alai match, attracting 24 competitors. Felix Bouvier was the Chairman of the Board. Jauregui was the team captain and general manager, and Haig Assodourian, an Egyptian of Armenian descent, the manager. Staff included a basket (cesta) maker and ball maker.

However, despite their enthusiasm, local athletes did not have the knack for the fast-moving game, and hardly anyone could really enjoy it.

Then, Jauregi had put together the best jai alai roster in the world included names such as Teodoro, Rafael, Tomas, Urbieta, Olalde, Salsamendi, Careaga, Maguregi, Aranzibia, Felix, Urizar, Cazalis or Kareaga showed their mastery.

At the beginning they played only doubles games. Soon after singles were included obtaining a good response from bettors.

On February 15, 1931, Julio and Bilbao "The Bounding Basque" joined the roster, those two came from Brasil. On June 27th, Artia, Solongo and Vicente arrived from Cuba.

One thing about Vicente. He signed a contract with $1350 (Mexican dollars) per month in 1932 - good money in pre-inflation Shanghai.

Assodourian Haig, the operational manager of the Auditorium, had been a pauper with only a pair of worn leather shoes and a bag when he arrived in the city. After helping to introduce Jai-alai to the city, he soon bought a car and a French villa.

Because of its speed and strong competitiveness, Jai-alai immediately won over thousands of local sports lovers.

By the third year, Auditorium's attendance increased gradually. It had a stable box Basque pelota (contract for one season). To keep fans informed management published a magazine called La Cesta. Berrondo, the best back-courter of the moment, signed for Shanghai also. Things going really well. Sixteen quinielas were played daily, 25 points partidos on Saturdays. Audiences – White Russians, Europeans, Chinese – came in droves, and business boomed.

In 1934, the auditorium was renovated and expanded to seat more than 3,000 people, 4,000 employees and installed air-conditioning, heating and a circular bar. It became infused in popular culture, listed as a must-do in guidebooks of the period, and even featured in a novel. Julio Larracoechea y Gonzalez, the Spanish vice-consul in Shanghai between 1932 and 1936, penned Ramonchu in Shanghai, a 1941 novel inspired by the life of a Shanghai Jai-alai player, name Ramón Aldabe. On 20th September 1934 also a tennis Jai-Alai was inaugurated.

In the next six years, the game became one of the most popular indoor sports among the fun-seeking youth.

Jai-alai was played in the Auditorium/Parc de Sports, and according to its entry in the 1937 Hong List, the auditorium also hosted "boxing, skating, tennis, and athletic games".

Before long, organizers and promoters of the game began to make each match the best chance for gambling.

They played singles and doubles, up to 16 matches each night. Most matches were fixed, and pelotari could get paid several multiples of their monthly salaries for throwing a game.

Not all the patrons did as well: the Shanghainese called the sport "Hai’a’la," a word play that means to entrap you and make you even poorer.

As dog racing did before it, Jai-alai rapidly changed many people from well-off to poor. Shanghainese even pronounced "canidrome", the dog race course as "kan ni qiong", which sounded in Shanghai dialect like "watching you getting poorer".

Jai-alai made some, ruined others. Not everyone lost on the games, however. The managers of Central Auditorium made a fortune, mainly by taking 15 to 20 per cent from ticket sales bets.

The Japanese invasion in August 13, 1937 remained the game in the evenings in Auditorium, but a number of fans was declining until its closure in 1944, with the escalation of the civil war.

...backing to 1941, Felix Bouvier was accused of murdering Baron Reginald de Auxion d’Ruffé, a French lawyer and author (Is China Mad? 1928; China and the Chinese: The New Yellow Peril, 1926). The two had first come into conflict over the founding of the Hai-alai Club, but hostilities reached a peak in 1940 when they took opposite political sides, Bouvier supporting General de Gaulle and de Ruffe aligning with the Vichy collaborater, Petain. No evidence was ever turned up to convict Bouvier, however.

The splendor of Shanghai's Auditorium would not shine anymore. Players' jobs destroyed and the efforts and dreams of people like Teodoro Jauregi victims of the war, too much of an opponent. It would not be the last time in Jai-alai' history. China became a barren land for Jai-alai.

However Jauregui's dream about Jai-alai was moved to the Philippines in Manila where it found a home for a while...

In 1944 the building was renamed "Zhonghua" (China) Auditorium and became the gathering place for the Shanghai Athletic Association.

This Shanghai map from 1947 shows the footprint of the Auditorium, by then the Shanghai Gymnasium, rechristened by the Wang Jingwei government.

In 1975, it was again renamed, this time to Luwan District Gymnasium.

In the early 1990's, the building was pulled down and a new shopping mall was erected in its place. Multiple renovations in recent decades have turned it into an office building with some shops at street level, and no indication on the exterior that it was once a lively center for sports and gambling. All that is left is that mysterious staircase.

Many would ask me what is Jai-alai?

Jai-alai is a game that originated in the ancient Basque regions of France and Spain. The rules and manner of playing are very similar to squash. Using a hand-held wicker basket (cesta), players whipped a small, hard ball against a wall at astounding speeds — sort of like squash, but with curved baskets instead of racquets.

If you are interested more about Jai-alai history, you can find more info here:

http://www.tampabayjaialai.com/history_of_jai-alai/index.php

- The location -

Shanghai Jai-alai Auditorium was located in a corner the Avenue Joffre then the Avenue du Roi Albert (in the French Concession). Today correspond to the streets Middle Huaihai Road (in Chinese: 淮海中路) with South Shaanxi Road (陕西 南路). According to some sources which I was able to find the address in more precisely: 439 Avenue du Roi Albert (now 139 South Shaanxi Road).

It was called "Central Auditorium"(中央 礼堂) or "Jai-alai Auditorium" (回 力 央), although it is also known by the French name "Parc des Sports".

The person who build the Auditorium was Santiago "Jimmy" LLado. LLado came from Barcelon and he came to Shanghai via the Philippines. On that time in Shanghai he met his wife. Ludmilla Klein was his White Russian pianist wife.
Interestingly, this Philippines-Shanghai path was also taken by another Spanish architect working in Shanghai, Abelardo Lafuente. We found the company that LLado worked for in 1937, and his home was on Yuyuan Road on that time.

Here below on pictures there is a cigarette case, inscribed with LLado’s initials and the image of the Auditorium. The inscription, in Spanish, reads: “A Momento from Dona H. Jauregui, 1 March 1935”.

As I mentioned previously the Auditorium hosted other sports. One of it was boxing. Jack Tonnochy, Flyweight and Bantamweight Champion, boxed at the Auditorium.
This is what Mr Tonnochy recalls at the Auditorium:
"I had about half a dozen fights there. I wasn’t easy for a newcomer to fight at the Auditorium; in those days, the boxers who fought there had big names and followers – as for me [when I started out], I had to wait for someone to show up for whatever reason, and I sort of filled in … I remember my first fight at the Auditorium: the promoter told me he couldn’t pay me publicly, because I was underage, but ‘If you win, I’ll present you with a silver cup, then when we return to the dressing room, you return the cup and I’ll give you US$5.00.’ When I was better known, I got paid without question."

Li Tsienwei also remember his first day in the Auditorium as a spectator:
"I was four in 1936. My father took me to Hai-Alai (Jai-Alai) Auditorium for the first time, and I saw Basques throwing ball at a tall wall with long baskets attached to their wrists. It was on the southeast side of the Avenue Joffre and Rue Roi Albert (southern extension of Seymour Road). After 1949 the building became a basketball hall, then a gymnasium".

"Hai-alai" was the spelling used by the Auditorium.
The standard spelling is "Jai-alai". So we use "Hai-alai" when referring to the Auditorium and "Jai-alai" elsewhere.

Today what is left after Jai-alai Auditorium is the piece of middle part of the building and a vintage Art Deco staircase, lively racing stripe running up the walls, makes it clear that this bit of new Shanghai has a racy past.

Hai-alai Auditorium issued one known nickel-plated brass token with Jai-alai player pictorial on the obverse and words "HAI-ALAI" on reverse.

The Auditorium also issued at least 5 coupons. There are two examples of such of coupons here. One from 1st January 1933 and the other from 1st December 1939.
KONDi
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Offline KONDi

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Re: Shanghai Jai-alai Auditorium
« Reply #1 on: September 29, 2015, 10:16:17 AM »
...
KONDi
cfrost1984@gmail.com
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Offline KONDi

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Re: Shanghai Jai-alai Auditorium
« Reply #2 on: September 29, 2015, 10:30:12 AM »
... ...
KONDi
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Offline KONDi

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Re: Shanghai Jai-alai Auditorium
« Reply #3 on: September 29, 2015, 10:31:49 AM »
... ... ...
KONDi
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Offline KONDi

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Re: Shanghai Jai-alai Auditorium
« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2015, 10:33:14 AM »
... ... ... ...
KONDi
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Offline bonke

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Re: Shanghai Jai-alai Auditorium
« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2015, 12:27:30 PM »
Great Information about the introduction of Jai-alai to Shanghai!

This reminds me of Mirkkenen's activities to introduce Sepaktakraw to the USA.  At this point, Jeremy is still searching for sufficient financial support.  Remember to bid high (and then higher) when he auctions modern Chinese coins on this forum to help support his activities.

Mark Bonke 

Offline KONDi

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Re: Shanghai Jai-alai Auditorium
« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2016, 04:15:45 AM »
Here is a page from a book guide about old Shanghai. It says some information about the Hai-alai Auditorium.
KONDi
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Offline KONDi

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Re: Shanghai Jai-alai Auditorium
« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2016, 10:43:17 AM »
I would like to dedicate this post about Shanghai Jai-alai Auditorium to the great player from that time, to TOMAS L.
KONDi
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Offline DouglasDor

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Re: Shanghai Jai-alai Auditorium
« Reply #8 on: October 09, 2017, 10:32:10 AM »
Here is a page from a book guide about old Shanghai. It says some information about the Hai-alai Auditorium.

Amazing, thanks Kondi. What is the book called by the way?

Offline canadian

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Re: Shanghai Jai-alai Auditorium
« Reply #9 on: October 09, 2017, 05:52:26 PM »
A fascinating bit of history, thank you Kondi.

Offline canadian

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Re: Shanghai Jai-alai Auditorium
« Reply #10 on: October 09, 2017, 09:02:24 PM »
By the way, that's a very nice collection of artifacts commemorating the story. I really like this kind of collecting.