First-ever Olympic Qualifier Series to open in Shanghai; top athletes set to vie for places at Paris 2024

Shanghai, China Photo: VCG

Shanghai, China Photo: VCG

 

A total of 464 top global athletes, including seven Tokyo 2020 Olympic champions, have gathered in Shanghai to vie for quota places at the upcoming 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

The “Olympic Qualifier Series (OQS) – Shanghai” will kick off on Thursday at the city’s iconic Huangpu riverside. The athletes, evenly divided between men and women, are going to compete in BMX freestyle, breaking, skateboarding, and sport climbing from Thursday to Sunday. 

This is the first-ever OQS event being held to serve as a final qualification stage for these four sports for the Games. “[People] will see an incredible level of competition in these four sports,” said Pierre Fratter-Bardy, Olympic Games strategy and development associate director, at an OQS press conference on Wednesday.

“We have the very best athletes in the world,” Fratter-Bardy added, noting that spectators can also try these sports.

In the past, quota places for the Olympics were decided through forms including tournaments, said Liu Dongfeng, a professor in sport management at Shanghai University of Sport. 

“And now the OQS, as a multi-sport event of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), is expected to attract wider attention, and to stimulate the interest in these four sports among more people, particularly young people,” Liu told the Global Times.

Representing a significant milestone in athletes’ journeys to Paris, the OQS employs a points system to determine which athletes will secure the quota places. Athletes in the four sports get the OQS points by competing in Shanghai this week, and in Budapest in June.

As a key project under Olympic Agenda 2020+5, the OQS in Shanghai aims to offer the Olympic candidates a high-standard competing area, and also to bring the public an immersive Olympic experience that merges sport, art, music and culture.

A public sports festival, named Urban Festival, will also be held at Huangpu riverside during the OQS, consisting of a variety of experiences and shows built around the four OQS sports, and their culture and scenes. The Urban Festival will let spectators of all ages have an inspiring experience while watching high-level competition, said the OQS organizers.

“Reaching out to and engaging with the young audiences around the world has been a very clear part of the innovation related to the Olympic program,” said IOC Sports Director Kit McConnell at an online media roundtable on Tuesday prior to the OQS. “What we’ve done is add to the more traditional sports by bringing in some of these really youth-focused sports and disciplines that we’ll see in Shanghai and Budapest,” said McConnell.

BMX freestyle, breaking, skateboarding, and sport climbing share common highlights that make them popular among young people, Liu said. “They are dynamic, fashionable street sports with some extreme sports elements.”

Liu praised the creative combination of the OQS and the public sports festival, which he thinks is a meaningful effort in promoting Olympic sports and events. “To Shanghai citizens, it is not a merely a competition, but also sort of an interactive carnival that allows everyone to participate and enjoy the charm of sport,” he told the Global Times.