City to host inaugural Olympic Qualifier Series at new Urban Park

Ma Yue
Event will present the popular urban sports of breaking, BMX freestyle, sport climbing and skateboarding as the world's top athletes gather to compete for places in Paris.
Ma Yue

The inaugural Olympic Qualifier Series will be held in Shanghai in May, presenting the popular urban sports of breaking, BMX freestyle, sport climbing and skateboarding.

As a new festival-style event launched by the International Olympic Committee that blends sports with culture, the series will be held in Shanghai from May 16 to 19 and then in Hungarian capital Budapest in June, gathering the world's top athletes to compete for places in Paris.

A brand-new Urban Park will be put up at Huangpu Riverside as the competition venue. According to Shanghai sports authorities, the four-day competition will be built into a sports carnival for spectators with interactive activities and entertainment.

A total of 464 athletes are expected to compete in Shanghai. To date, 288 have confirmed participation in BMX freestyle, sport climbing and breaking. Skateboarding participants will be confirmed by World Skate this week.

The list includes a number of Olympic champions and world champions. Among them Tokyo Olympic champions Logan Martin from Australia and Britain's Charlotte Worthington; Frenchman Anthony Jeanjean, winner of the 2024 UCI BMX Freestyle World Cup Enoshima; South Korean B-boy Wing, winner of the 2023 WDSF Asian Breaking Championships; Poland's Natalia Kalucka, silver medal winner in the women's speed competition at the 2023 IFSC Climbing World Cup Wujiang Station; and French climber Mejdi Schalck, champion of the 2023 NEOM IFSC Masters in men's boulder.

Chinese athletes include Shanghai B-boy Shang Xiaoyu, BMX Freestyle Park world champion Deng Yawen, as well as climbers Pan Yufei, Luo Zhilu, Long Mingguo, Wu Peng and Niu Di.

City to host inaugural Olympic Qualifier Series at new Urban Park
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

An Urban Park will be set up at Huangpu Riverside as venue for the Olympic Qualifier Series.

"I'm so excited and looking forward to competing in front of the home crowd," said Shang, a 2018 Youth Olympic quarterfinalist. Shang has been training in Beijing with the national team. To win a quota for the Paris Olympic Games, he needs a top 7 ranking out of 40 athletes after the two series stops in Shanghai and Budapest.

"The name of my sport 'breaking' representing the spirit of achieving breakthroughs. I want to show my best form in Shanghai," said Shang.

Charlotte Worthington also expressed her expectations for the Shanghai event in an earlier interview.

"Every athlete is there for one goal, which is to represent their country at Paris 2024. I'm going to make sure that I enjoy it and I'm relaxed, and that's when I ride at my best," she said.

"I will also be there as a fan of the other sports and their cultures. It's great to see the sports cross over, giving spectators the opportunity to experience this too, which I think can inspire them to try actions sports," she added.

City to host inaugural Olympic Qualifier Series at new Urban Park
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

B-boy Shang Xiaoyu from Shanghai.

Most of the facilities of the new Urban Park need to be built, including the competition area, audience seats, and performance stage. Construction will start in a few days, to be completed by April 30.

"This is a temporary venue, and the challenge is to complete it in a short time and meet professional requirements," said designer Li Xingqiao.

"Unlike traditional venues, Urban Park emphasizes the interaction between spectators and athletes," Li said. "Because we want to create a festival-style atmosphere, athletes can high-five the audience when going on and off the court. We will take comprehensive considerations into stimulating athletes' form while ensuring safety."

Li said the skateboarding and breaking will be indoor competitions, while sport climbing and BMX freestyle will be held outdoors.

City to host inaugural Olympic Qualifier Series at new Urban Park
Ti Gong

How the Urban Park will look when complete.

As a warm-up for the series, an Urban Festival will be held a month in advance. Luo Wenhua, Shanghai Sports Bureau deputy director, said there will be roadshows and promotional activities during the festival in schools, commercial areas and public spaces to introduce the four sports to the public and invite people to experience the sports themselves.

"On competition days, the Urban Park will be built into a carnival," said Luo. "Apart from enjoying the games, spectators can interact with athletes and celebrities. They can learn more about each sport in an exploration zone and take fun quizzes. There will also be various delicacies, souvenirs, and gifts offered on site."

Pierre Fratter-Bardy, associate director of Olympic Games Strategy and Development of the International Olympic Committee, said he was fully confident that Shanghai would deliver an outstanding event.

City to host inaugural Olympic Qualifier Series at new Urban Park
Jiang Xiaowei / SHINE

The announcement that the Olympic Qualifier Series will kick off in Shanghai in May.

"We decided to start with these four sports, as they share the same DNA – they are urban sports popular among the younger generation. Together, they represent a lifestyle, a new taste of the younger generation," Fratter-Bardy said.

"Shanghai is a vibrant city and we know there are a lot of urban sports lovers and followers here," he said. "This is the inaugural edition of the Olympic Qualifier Series, the last step on the athletes' road to the Olympics, so the expectation is high."

BMX freestyle, sport climbing and skateboarding made their appearance during the Tokyo Olympic Games, while breaking will be introduced for the first time in Paris. However, breaking might not feature in the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

For Shang and many other breaking athletes, Paris might be their once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

City to host inaugural Olympic Qualifier Series at new Urban Park
Ti Gong

Breaking, BMX freestyle, sport climbing and skateboarding are popular with young people.

"Breaking has been a strong suit for European and American athletes and those from Japan and South Korea. But China has its advantage too, especially these years," said Wang Shenjiong, a World DanceSport Federation (WDSF) certified international judge.

Wang said China established a national team for breaking earlier than a lot of other countries. Team strength and focused study of the sport are to China's advantage.

"Our top athletes are already on the radar of our opponents, so we have been paying attention to the confidentiality of tactics and training," he said.

Wang said in addition to difficult technical movements, visual impression, explosive power and the ability to adjust to music are all key factors in a breaking competition.

Tickets for the Olympic Qualifier Series are expected to go on sale in early April. There will be discounts for students, early birds as well as family and group spectators.

Special Reports