Growing international events call for more sports presenters

Li Zichao (right) conducts an on-court interview with US tennis player Sofia Kenin during the WTA Guangzhou Open in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province. Photo: Courtesy of Li Zichao

Li Zichao (right) conducts an on-court interview with US tennis player Sofia Kenin during the WTA Guangzhou Open in Guangzhou, Guangdong Province. Photo: Courtesy of Li Zichao

As a major sports powerhouse, China has witnessed a growing number of international sporting events across the country in recent years, attracting more and more foreign athletes and sports enthusiasts to the country.

Outside of the dazzling athletes and their record-breaking performances is a world that exists alongside the world of athletic performance but is often overlooked – sports presenting. 

Beyond merely announcing names and scores, a sports presenter shoulders the responsibility of managing the ambiance within the arena, transforming mere spectators into fervent supporters and elevating the overall sporting experience. 

When sports presenting is involved, the atmosphere becomes electric and dynamic. Be it the thrilling anticipation before the start of an event, the captivating analysis during the event, or the jubilant celebrations after the event, good sports presenting adds layers of excitement and engagement to the experience. 

As the industry has emerged from obscurity, it has been propelled into the limelight by individuals like Li Zichao, whose life journey illustrates the multifaceted nature of this evolving profession.

Li was among the crew of sports presenters at the Hangzhou Asian Games held in 2023, who often made headlines on social media for the engaging content they provided to audiences. But his career in sports started in a sport far removed from indoor competitions like table tennis. 

Golf challenge 

Having majored in grassland science at the Beijing Forestry University, Li had an early connection to golf, a sport in which lawns and greens are essential. 

“I started my career as a golf commentator in 2008, and since then, I have developed broadcasting skills and knowledge in the sport,” Li told the Global Times. 

Sports presenters often need to research and compile information about upcoming games, teams, players and relevant statistics as Li underscored. Strong research skills are important for providing accurate and insightful commentary.

“A deep understanding and passion for sports are essential. You should be knowledgeable about various sports, teams, players and events. This includes understanding the rules of different sports and being able to analyze and commentate on games effectively,” Li said. 

Fans cheer for the Chinese national table tennis team during the Asian Games in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province in September 2023. Photo: VCG

Fans cheer for the Chinese national table tennis team during the Asian Games in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province in September 2023. Photo: VCG

Different from many other sports with a double-digit number of athletes, in golf, Li often has to prepare the background information of 144 athletes, which calls for a huge volume of home work on every athlete. 

“The presentation isn’t just about relaying information; it’s about weaving together stories, stats, and emotions to transport viewers into the game,” Li noted.

Golf is a game that requires a lot of focus and concentration. Any noise or distraction can disrupt a player’s mental state and affect their performance, thus giving presenters very limited time to conduct their jobs.

“Unlike more fast-paced sports like soccer, basketball, or any other indoor sports, the action in golf can be subtle and spread out across the outdoor course,” said Li, who is now preparing his presentation content for the Volvo China Open golf event from May 2 to 5 in Shenzhen, South China’s Guangdong Province. 

“Presenters must be mindful of the timing to avoid disrupting players or spectators while still providing engaging commentary and analyses.”

Engaging with audiences

Similar to Li’s story, Dou Yujia also excels in sports presentation. 

After years of news coverage on the development of Chinese athletics, Dou now takes on sports presenting at large events, like the World Athletic Diamond League race in Xiamen, East China’s Fujian Province. 

In athletics, sports presentation often involves audio-visual effects, including music, videos, commentary, and lighting, thus making it easier to engage with audiences in the stadium. 

“Chinese athletics boasts impressive competitive achievements and China has a plethora of world-class athletes,” Dou said. 

“If we can develop a sporting culture through sports presenting that audiences could enjoy, especially with the presence of many children nowadays, they can enjoy top-notch athletics culture from a young age and learn about spectator etiquette, which bodes well for the future development of Chinese athletics.”

Li also seeks to inspire and mentor the next generation of sports presenters, nurturing a cadre of young enthusiasts eager to explore the intricacies of this burgeoning field.

Yet, the journey from novice to seasoned sports presenter is fraught with challenges and demands diverse skill sets. 

It requires not only a profound knowledge of sports but also an innate ability to captivate audiences and infuse each moment with excitement and anticipation. 

“Proficiency in both Chinese and English is essential, enabling seamless communication with a global audience as the audiences are often exclusively from China,” Li said. 

Sports presenters also serve as ambassadors of Chinese culture, incorporating elements of tradition to captivate foreign participants and spectators alike.

To better achieve that goal, Li opts to consult with local experts on how to share particular elements with an international audience.

“For many foreign athletes and spectators, watching a sporting event is also a chance to learn the local culture, thus making our job a perfect channel to disseminate the rich culture of China,” Li said.

With the forthcoming 2025 Asian Winter Games set to unfold in his hometown of Harbin, Northeast China’s Heilongjiang Province, Li, who was included as an ice hockey presenter for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, also aspires to contribute his expertise to the local event. 

“Witnessing spectators express their satisfaction with the sports presentation I’ve given truly validates the significance of my work,” Li said. “I just hope to have more opportunities to offer the audience quality content through sports presenting.”