Published: 14:13, May 24, 2024
Olympic dreams soar in Shanghai
By Sun Xiaochen in Shanghai

Action sports stars delight crowds as four-day Paris 2024 qualifiers get ‘full marks’ from IOC chief

Playing host to four action sports — skateboarding, BMX freestyle, sport climbing, and breaking — the Huangpu Riverside dockland park in the heart of Shanghai welcomed 464 athletes from home and abroad as they battled it out to book their ticket to the Paris Olympics. (GAO ERQIANG / CHINA DAILY)

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

As the first-of-its-kind, one-stop qualifying event for four sports, the series capped its four-day Shanghai leg with great fanfare at the Huangpu Riverside on May 19, 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 Shanghai 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,” Bach said during a news briefing at the close of the event on May 19.

Playing host to four action sports — skateboarding, BMX freestyle, sport climbing, and breaking — the Huangpu Riverside dockland park in the heart of Shanghai welcomed 464 athletes from home and abroad as they battled it out to book their ticket to the Paris Olympics. (GAO ERQIANG / CHINA DAILY)

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 takes place in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, from June 20 to 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 Shanghai event, enjoying adrenaline-fueled entertainment amid awe-inspiring and simultaneous displays of skill on ramps, rails, walls, and dance floors.

Perhaps, the proudest moment for the host came during the women’s BMX freestyle final on May 18, when Sun Sibei, Sun Jiaqi, and Deng Yawen completed a sweep of the podium to a deafening roar of approval from the crowd. In the sport climbing speed event, 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 the international standouts, skateboarder Jagger Eaton of the United States set himself apart by finishing on two podiums. He placed first in street and then third in park on May 19, despite the short turnaround between the two disciplines.

Playing host to four action sports — skateboarding, BMX freestyle, sport climbing, and breaking — the Huangpu Riverside dockland park in the heart of Shanghai welcomed 464 athletes from home and abroad as they battled it out to book their ticket to the Paris Olympics. (GAO ERQIANG / CHINA DAILY)

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.

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

“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,” said Australian BMX rider Natalya Diehm, echoing the sentiment.

Playing host to four action sports — skateboarding, BMX freestyle, sport climbing, and breaking — the Huangpu Riverside dockland park in the heart of Shanghai welcomed 464 athletes from home and abroad as they battled it out to book their ticket to the Paris Olympics. (GAO ERQIANG / CHINA DAILY)

Asked to score the performances of the Shanghai organizers, Bach gave them the thumbs-up.

“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 sports. 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.”

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