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.

F1 driver revs up for exhibition

China’s first F1 driver Zhou Guanyu co-launched a special exhibition with sportswear company Lululemon in Shanghai. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the Chinese Grand Prix, Zhou Guanyu, China’s first F1 driver, co-launched a special exhibition with sportswear company Lululemon in Shanghai.

Presented in Jing’An Kerry Centre store, From 2004 to 2024: Zhou Guanyu’s Homecoming Special Exhibition features Zhou’s F1 journey over the past 20 years.

Zhou will return to Shanghai to race in the Chinese Grand Prix at the event from Friday to Sunday 1, exactly 20 years after he first watched the F1 race in his hometown of Shanghai, planting the seed to one day live out his dream of becoming a racing driver.

“What I’ve wanted most is to compete in the F1 at home, I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time,” said Zhou, the ambassador of Lululemon.

Shanghai, Beijing, other cities improve foreigners’ payment service

Mobile payment Photo:VCG

Mobile payment Photo:VCG

Major Chinese cities like Beijing and Shanghai have stepped up efforts to improve means of payment for foreign travelers, a move to promote inbound tourism and high-level opening-up. 

Shanghai, frequently picked up by overseas visitors as their first stop to China for business, study or sightseeing, will optimize payment service linked with bank cards, promote the use of cash and facilitate mobile payment to meet the diverse preferences of foreigners, Hua Yuan, vice mayor of Shanghai, told a press conference on Thursday.

“We have improved the cross-border payment functions of UnionPay, Alipay and WeChat Pay to facilitate mobile payments on the side of Chinese merchants. UnionPay can support users of more than 180 overseas wallets to make payments, and Alipay can support e-wallets from 10 countries and regions to make payments in China, Hua said.

In terms of bank cards, the city has newly opened more than 37,000 foreign card point-of-sale (POS) terminals, covering sites of commerce, culture and tourism, and airports. 

The total number of foreign bank card POS swipes, and the per customer transaction value in Shanghai are both leading other cities in the Chinese mainland, said Hua.

Shanghai also has a large number of yuan cash withdrawal or exchange outlets, including more than 8,000 automatic teller machines (ATMs), over 3,500 Chinese bank outlets, and 183 foreign currency exchange outlets.

Hua said that Shanghai will promote the full coverage of foreign card withdrawals of yuan cash from ATMs stationed in the city.

On Tuesday, the Beijing municipal government released an action plan to optimize its payment services. 

The capital city will continue to improve the user-friendly level and convenience of payments such as mobile payments, bank cards and cash. As of the end of December, the city will have basically solved the payment difficulties of elderly people, foreigners coming to Beijing and other groups.

“In Shanghai, everything can be paid for by using a QR code – this is very different from my home. It’s super convenient,” an Australian tourist who requested anonymity told the Global Times on Thursday.

“It makes Shanghai feel much more international and connected. It also helps in keeping track of how much you spend – which is great for a shopaholic like me,” the tourist said.

Alejandra Clemente Romagnoli, a tourist from Mexico who has visited Shanghai, told the Global Times that she usually uses Alipay or WeChat Pay, and the accounts are associated with her Chinese bank cards. 

“It is very easy to use mobile payments. Just take your cellphone and go out. In Mexico, I had to carry cash and a bank card,” she said.

The two cities’ moves came after China released on March 7 a guideline to better meet the payment needs of foreigners, which experts said is conducive to boosting domestic consumption while demonstrating the country’s commitment to high-level opening-up.

“By installing new foreign card POS machines and promoting the facilitation of payments, these cities have provided a more convenient and efficient payment environment for foreign tourists,” Wang Peng, an associate research fellow at the Beijing Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times on Thursday.

“These measures have also promoted consumption and expanded domestic demand, further boosting China’s economic growth,” Wang said.

Wang added that a convenient and efficient payment environment can reduce the transaction costs of enterprises and improve the efficiency of capital utilization, enhancing competitiveness.

By promoting payment facilitation, China can enhance its attractiveness in the international investment market and attract more foreign investment, he said.