Olympic qualifier boosts youth's passion for sport

China Daily

Olympic qualifier boosts youth

People try rock climbing in an exhibition area at the venue for the Paris Olympic Qualifier Series in Shanghai on May 17. GAO ERQIANG/CHINA DAILY

The ongoing Olympic Qualifier Series in Shanghai, besides providing berths at this year's Olympic Games in Paris, has triggered the younger generation's passion for the four fast-rising street-style sports.

The four-day sporting gala features professional competitions of BMX cycling, skateboarding, sport climbing and breaking as well as an urban festival including a "sport initiation" section aiming to cultivate new fans in these sports, in particular, children and youth, through experiential activities and relevant coaching.

"The International Olympic Committee has placed the top events of these four emerging sports in Shanghai, hoping to attract more young people to participate while providing more cultural heritage for these four sports," said Gu Weifeng, the person in charge of the initiation.

Zhang Yanan, along with her 7-year-old son, a skateboarding enthusiast, is one of the families who traveled from miles away to experience the special vibe of the OQS.

"We just participated in a skateboarding practice activity and made an appointment for tomorrow's graffiti-drawing event. The activities here are very diversified," said Zhang, who traveled from Shandong province with four other families whose children are all skateboarding lovers.

Zhang's son, nicknamed Wangcai, started skateboarding at the age of five because he was attracted by the global image of skateboarding and the street culture behind it.

"I think exposure to more cultural content along with sports can have a positive impact on a children's overall development and aesthetic appreciation," Zhang said. "Moreover, skateboarding can gather the enthusiasts to play together, which is also a great social climate for children.

"The OQS is very international, and there are many top athletes from different countries participating. It is a very rare and precious experience for children," Zhang said.

The initiation area set up activities for enthusiasts of different levels. "We have gathered high-quality coaches in Shanghai to help the inexperienced youth group participating in these four sports. We also have a graffiti area for young participants to draw their creative patterns on the helmets of BMX, skateboard boards, the handholds of sport climbing and the dance T-shirt," Gu said.

He added that champion athletes were invited to have on-site exchanges and interactions with teenagers and children.

"These linkages can truly promote these four emerging sports through the great platform and opportunity of OQS. We hope that more young people will participate in these sports in Shanghai and also across the country in the future," he added.

Local resident Shang Lianying expressed her wish to retain these venues after the OQS.

"These four sports are all very popular among children and young people nowadays. My son really enjoyed the on-site experience activities and had tried the other three sports as well," said Shang.

She came here with her nine-year-old son, who started sport climbing at the age of four.

"These experience areas are very helpful to the young sports lovers by giving them a chance to practice on a global stage," said Raviandi Ramadhan, 21, an Indonesian athlete in bouldering and lead combined of sport climbing.

Skateboarding referee Ben Hatchell from the US said the OQS is an open stage for everyone.

"I think if they want to do it for fun, anybody can play skateboard and have a good time!" Hatchell said.