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.

Refugee Team demonstrates Olympic spirit, sends message of hope

Refugee Olympic Team members will compete across 12 sports during the Paris Olympic Games. Photo: Courtesy of International Olympic Committee

Refugee Olympic Team members will compete across 12 sports during the Paris Olympic Games. Photo: Courtesy of International Olympic Committee

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has unveiled its largest Refugee Olympic Team to date for the Paris Olympic Games and a new emblem for the team.

A total of 36 athletes from 11 different countries and regions will compete across 12 sports including swimming, badminton and breaking during the Paris Games from July 26 to August 11, marking the third time for the Refugee Team to take part in the Olympic Games since Rio 2016. 

The announcement was made by IOC president Thomas Bach during a live-streamed ceremony from Olympic House in Lausanne, Switzerland on May 2.

“With your participation in the Olympic Games, you will demonstrate the human potential for resilience and excellence. This will send a message of hope to the more than 100 million displaced people around the world. At the same time, you will make billions of people around the world aware of the magnitude of the refugee crisis,” said Bach.

The establishment of a Refugee Team is more than an enrichment to the Olympic community. It is the best interpretation of the Olympic spirit of peace, mutual respect and understanding by promoting inclusiveness, unity, perseverance and fair play and it serves as a powerful reminder of the transformative power of sport.

The Olympic Games aim to bring together athletes from all over the world to compete regardless of nationality, ethnicity, or background. 

In 2024, for the first time in the Olympic history, the Refugee Team will compete under its own emblem, instead of the Olympic flag with its signature five interlocked rings. Bringing a unique identity to the team, the design of a circle of arrows around a red heart represents the team members coming from different corners of the world and sharing their unique journeys.

The Refugee Olympic Team symbolizes unity and solidarity among nations and athletes. It sends the powerful message that despite the challenges and adversities faced by refugees, they can come together as a team and compete alongside athletes from around the world.

Additionally, the participation of refugee athletes in the Olympic Games promotes a message of peace and understanding. It highlights the human cost of conflict and displacement while at the same time emphasizing the importance of global cooperation and support for refugees.

In promoting peace, the team’s purpose positions itself on the same level as the Olympic Truce, an ancient Greek tradition which required the cessation of all hostilities to secure safe passage for athletes during the ancient Olympic Games.

According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there were an estimated 114 million people forcibly displaced worldwide as of September of 2023.

Supporting refugees and displaced populations remains a key priority for the IOC, and is part of Olympic Agenda. The Olympic Refuge Foundation (ORF) was established in 2017 to build on this commitment.

Representing the people affected by war and poverty, refugee athletes from countries such as Iran, Afghanistan and Syria will take this opportunity to raise global awareness of the refugee crisis and serve as role models to inspire individuals facing adversities worldwide and convey to the world a call for unity and peace. 

This year, the team will be led by Chef de Mission Masomah Ali Zada, who competed for the Refugee Team at Tokyo 2020 in road cycling. In an interview, Zada commented: “With all the challenges that you have faced, you now have a chance to inspire a new generation, represent something bigger than yourselves and show the world what refugees are capable of,”

The presence of the Refugee Team at the Olympic Games is a perfect example of how sports are able to promote global peace and the harmonious coexistence of mankind, said a Chinese netizen on X-like Sina Weibo. 

The Olympic spirit represents the universal values of excellence, friendship, respect, sportsmanship, and inspiration that unite athletes and people around the world in the pursuit of athletic achievement and human excellence.

The Refugee Olympic Team will definitely leave a lasting legacy beyond the Games and it is hoped that such initiative will lead to increased support and opportunities for refugee athletes at all levels of sport, encouraging participation, integration, and social inclusion in communities worldwide.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. [email protected]

Ex-captain Zhu’s return boosts Chinese women’s volleyball team’s Paris hopes

China's Zhu Ting (right) spikes during the match against Turkey at the Tokyo Olympics on July 25. Photo: Cui Meng/Global Times

China’s Zhu Ting (right) spikes during the match against Turkey at the Tokyo Olympics on July 25, 2021. Photo: Cui Meng/Global Times

Chinese volleyball looks like it will get a shot in the arm as former captain of the national women’s team Zhu Ting announced a comeback via her personal social media account on Monday night. 

While playing for Pallavolo Scandicci in the Italian league, the 29-year-old volleyball icon said on her X-like Sina Weibo account that she will return to the national team during the 2024 Volleyball Women’s Nations League that is scheduled to begin in May.

The most valuable player during China’s run to Olympic gold at the Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016 said that “the sole objective of my return is to help the national team secure qualification for the Paris Olympics.”

To achieve this end and avoid any distractions and misunderstandings, Zhu has shunned all commercial activities.

“I will not participate in any commercial activities or endorsements while with the national team. I will focus on recovering my physical fitness as quickly as possible to catch up with the national team. I will devote myself wholeheartedly to training and matches, working together with the team to secure qualification for the Paris Games,” Zhu noted. 

As one of the most recognizable faces in Chinese sports, Zhu is to the national women’s volleyball team what Yao Ming was to the national basketball team.

Her timely return to the national team undoubtedly provides a significant morale boost to the squad, given her experience, talent, and leadership qualities. 

Zhu’s presence on the court not only elevates the team’s performance but also serves as an inspiration to her teammates and fans alike.

With the other addition of Zhang Changning, another Rio Olympic champion who returned in February, the national team’s prospects for securing a place in the Paris Games have significantly improved. 

The team, comprising both promising young talents and experienced veterans, has reignited hopes for a successful campaign in Paris.

Qualifying for the Olympic Games is of great significance for any national team. However, for the women’s volleyball team, which holds a special place in Chinese sports history, missing the Olympic Games is hard to swallow for fans. 

Since their groundbreaking victory at the 1981 World Cup, the volleyball team has been a source of immense national pride for China. 

Their achievements on the international stage, including three Olympic gold medals and multiple world championship titles, have elevated the country’s profile. Their dedication, teamwork, and perseverance have inspired generations of athletes to pursue excellence in sports. 

Currently engaged in close-door training under head coach Cai Bin, the team has to fight for a high world ranking at the coming Volleyball Nations League to secure a spot for the Paris Olympics.

Regarded as one of the best volleyball players in the world, Zhu’s experience and skill set make her an invaluable asset to the team, particularly in high-stakes matches where her leadership and composure can make a difference.

In her announcement, she revealed that she had once lost interest in volleyball and all but retired due to injury and rumors.

“From the end of 2023 to this year’s Spring Festival, I suffered serious fatigue and a slump in form to the point where I couldn’t even handle routine matches. The various rumors and deliberate attacks against me on the internet since the Tokyo Games, weighed on me and even affected my family. I once lost interest in volleyball, so I had submitted a retirement application,” Zhu said on Sina Weibo. 

She attributed her comeback to former national team coach Lang Ping, who repeatedly helped her analyze her physical and technical problems and urged her to strengthen physical training. Lang masterminded the team to the gold medal at the 2016 Rio Games, becoming the first person in volleyball history to have won Olympic gold both as a player and as a coach.

Having recovered from a wrist injury, Zhu has been regaining her form and restoring confidence. Her comeback and her role in helping China qualify for the Paris Olympic Games will highlight her enduring legacy in the world of volleyball. 

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. [email protected]