​Shanghai kicks off Olympic qualifying
en.hangzhou.com.cn   2024-05-21 15:05   Source: China Daily

Athletes compete for spots in Paris Games in unique festive atmosphere

Sunshine, exuberance, great athleticism. The Olympic Qualifying Series Shanghai kicked off in grand style on Thursday at the Huangpu Riverside, with enthusiastic spectators swarming into the venue to experience the festival-style event.

Competitions for skateboarding street, skateboarding park and boulder climbing started with the preliminary rounds on the first day of the event, which ends on Sunday. The four-day series has attracted 464 top athletes to compete in BMX freestyle, breaking, skateboarding and sport climbing, vying for berths at this year's Olympic Games in Paris.

"I think the atmosphere and competition venue at the event exceeded my expectations. There were even more spectators than at the Asian Games," said 17-year-old Zhang Jie, the only Chinese street skateboarder in the event and the gold medalist in men's street skateboarding at the Asian Games in Hangzhou last year.

Shanghai organizers transformed the Huangpu Riverside venue, which hosted the 2010 World Expo, into an urban park spanning 110,000 square meters for sports competitions and associated cultural and entertainment events.

"The event is amazing, just incredible to be able to see all the other events. And the venue is really nice. I'm looking forward to the lead event," said Alex Khazanov, a sport-climbing athlete from Israel.

B-Boy Karam Singh from Great Britain said: "It's amazing to be around so many incredible athletes from different sports. There are a lot of similarities between the four and the journeys that we've been on, so it's nice to see the athletes from across sports and countries connecting with each other.

What makes the inaugural edition of the Olympic Qualifying Series special is the combination of an urban festival that integrates sports, music, art and culture with the hard-core sports competitions.

"The event has a great vibe and it reminds me a little bit of the festival vibe. You see all the athletes skating between everyone, so I really enjoyed that," said Karina Bes from the Netherlands. Bes visited the urban festival with her daughter, who is a keen skateboarder.

Compared with other sports events, Bes added that the series offers more varied experiences. "I would have expected it to be way more crowded, but it's cool," she said. "There is enough space, enough things to eat and drink. Lots of fun things around."

Five "experience zones" including a pop art-inspired climbing zone, origami-style skateboarding zone, hip-hop graffiti-themed breaking zone and an industrial woodland BMX zone, have opened inside the urban park.

"I think the atmosphere of the series is stronger than that of the Olympic Games because of the urban festival," said Zhong Tianshi, China's two-time Olympic track cycling champion. "In the Olympic Games, people just watch the competitions, but at this sports festival, people can participate in and experience these sports. I think it brings more anticipation to this competition."

Hosting the qualifier series in an Olympic year injects new impetus and advantages into Shanghai's efforts to accelerate its development as a globally renowned sports city and enhance the soft power of its urban culture.

"I feel impressed by the energy of the city," said Pierre Fratter-Bardy, the International Olympic Committee's associate director of Olympic Games strategy and development. "The venue is extraordinary and has an exceptional setup. We are very thankful to the city of Shanghai regarding the quality."

Besides the competitions, the event also provides athletes with an opportunity to explore the city.

"This is my first time in Shanghai. Super impressed by the city. It is completely out of the world I'm used to — all the skyscrapers and the city is huge," said Sandra Hopfensitz, a boulderer and lead combined contestant from Germany.

Grace Marhoefer and Rudy Lilley, both park skateboarders from the US, were also impressed.

"We've gotten to negotiate a lot of places and meet a lot of cool people. I'm just grateful to be here and experience everything," Marhoefer said.

Lilley added: "I'm really happy to be here. I love it and I love the food and people. It's been amazing."

The second stop of the series is scheduled to be held in the Hungarian capital Budapest from June 20 to 23, with 150 spots at this summer's Paris Olympics to be filled after the two stops.

Author:   Editor: Ye Lijiao