Snooker players making regular trips to China are more than familiar with the red carpet treatment at PR ceremonies which always precede ranking events in the Far East.
But it was certainly a novelty when the likes of Mark Selby, Neil Robertson, Stuart Bingham and Ding Junhui met some of natural history’s big beasts in Daqing on Saturday.
The city’s museum is globally renowned for its collection of fossils of woolly mammoths; giant elephantine creatures which lived in China’s Heilongjiang province during the Pleistocene epoch and became extinct around 10,000 years ago.
The museum is accessed by using a skeleton key
It was an eye-catching location to stage the ceremony, which included live TV interviews, speeches and interaction with fans.
Former World Champion Ken Doherty, certainly no old fossil himself at the age of 46, said: “It was fascinating to see the museum and find out more about the history of the area. I was like a tourist myself, taking lots of photos.” Anthony McGill joked: “I was just hoping that the mammoths weren’t going to come to life. I think we would have been in trouble.”
Attentions have now turned to the tables for the International Championship, snooker’s richest event outside the UK, where players are competing for a total prize pot of £657,000. That’s quite a tusk fund.