Published: 10:09, May 21, 2024
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Air-raising action wows Shanghai crowds
By Sun Xiaochen
The Shanghai leg of the inaugural Olympic Qualifier Series takes place at the Huangpu Riverside in Shanghai. Set against a backdrop of bridges, ships and skyscrapers, the event provides spectators and athletes with world-class sporting competition and a unique urban vibe. (GAO ERQIANG / CHINA DAILY)

With gravity-defying tricks and hair-raising maneuvers cheered and enjoyed at a vibrant urban festival, the Shanghai leg of the inaugural Olympic Qualifier Series has far exceeded expectations, thrilling action sports fans worldwide.

As the first-of-itskind, one-stop qualifying event for four sports, the series capped its four-day Shanghai leg with great fanfare at the Huangpu Riverside on Sunday, leaving athletes, officials and fans savoring the unique combination of world-class sport, dynamic city vibes and smooth organization that went into creating this appetite-whetting Olympics amuse bouche.

Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, gave full marks to the East China metropolis for hosting the qualifier series at the highest international standards.

With this event, China and Shanghai have once more set the benchmark for the organization of Olympic events and big sporting events, with venues and organization here absolutely up to the top standards.

Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee

"With this event, China and Shanghai have once more set the benchmark for the organization of Olympic events and big sporting events, with venues and organization here absolutely up to the top standards," Bach said during a news briefing at the close of the event on Sunday.

Playing host to four action sports — skateboarding, BMX freestyle, sport climbing and breaking, the Huangpu Riverside, a dockland park in the heart of Shanghai, set the stage for a total of 464 athletes from 120 nations and regions to vie for Olympic qualification berths for Paris 2024. A second OQS leg will take place in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, from June 20-23.

Drawn not only by the competition, but also a variety of pop culture activities, more than 45,000 fans swarmed into the urban park during the four-day event, only to be faced with onslaught of adrenaline-fueled entertainment, with awe-inspiring displays of skill on ramps, rails, walls and dance floors all happening at the same time.

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Sun Jiaqi of China competes during the Cycling BMX Freestyle Women's Park Qualification at the Olympic Qualifier Series Shanghai in East China's Shanghai, May 17, 2024. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Perhaps, the proudest moment for the host came during the women's BMX freestyle final on Saturday, when Sun Sibei, Sun Jiaqi and Deng Yawen completed a sweep of the podium to a deafening roar of approval from the crowd. In sport climbing speed, female climber Zhou Yafei posted a personal best to tap first in the women's final, before her compatriot Wu Peng took silver in the men's event.

Among all of the international standouts, skateboarder Jagger Eaton of the United States set himself apart from the rest of the field by finishing on two podiums. He placed first in street and third in park on Sunday, despite the short turnaround between the two disciplines.

Chen Ye of China competes during the men's park preliminaries of skateboarding at the Olympic Qualifier Series Shanghai in East China's Shanghai, May 17, 2024. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

At the packed dance arena, tight battles laid down a marker of what to expect at breaking's Olympic debut in Paris, with Dutch B-boy Lee (Lee-Lou Demierre) and Japan's veteran B-girl Ayumi (Ayumi Fukushima) winning over the judges to win the men's and women's finals, respectively.

On top of four days of thrilling sports competition, Shanghai organizers also treated fans to daily music concerts, fashion shows and junior clinics for BMX and skateboarding.

On top of four days of thrilling sports competition, Shanghai organizers also treated fans to daily music concerts, fashion shows and junior clinics for BMX and skateboarding

The event even captured the attention of high-profile sports fans, with basketball legend Yao Ming, former track cycling Olympic champion Zhong Tianshi and ex-national soccer team captain Fan Zhiyi among the celebrities spotted at the meet.

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"It's crazy to be skating at this kind of event. This is probably the biggest one we've had so far. I wasn't at the last Olympics, but ever since the day we got here, it's kind of been like (an) Olympic feeling," Brazilian skateboarder Luigi Cini said of his experience in Shanghai.

"If I didn't know any differently, I'd say that we're at the Olympics already. This is an unreal experience," Australian BMX rider Natalya Diehm said, echoing the sentiment.

Asked to score the performances of the Shanghai organizers, Bach gave a thumbs-up without hesitation.

Luo Zhilu of China competes during the boulder qualification of women's boulder & lead of sport climbing at the Olympic Qualifier Series Shanghai in East China's Shanghai, May 16, 2024. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

"The question is easy to answer, 10 out of 10. I think there can be no doubt about this," he said. "It is not a coincidence that this world debut (of the OQS) is taking place in Shanghai, because we know China is a very reliable organizer."

"We know Shanghai is a place of innovation. We know Shanghai is a city that is open to the world, and we know the people of Shanghai are passionate about sport. So, therefore, it was somehow a no-brainer to decide where we would go first," Bach said of the selection of Shanghai as host of the inaugural OQS event.

"You can see it works, and that the younger generation has found new access to Olympic sports and to the Olympic values.

"This is the result of our Olympic Agenda reforms, which are promoting sports to be more urban, more youthful, more inclusive and more sustainable. And Shanghai is one step on this road."

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This sentiment was backed by the figures provided by the organizers, who noted that 30 percent of the people who attended the event were under 18 years old. Additionally, organizers said, 89 percent of the 45,000 attendees were domestic spectators.

sunxiaochen@chinadaily.com.cn