Florian Pertsch
Florian Pertsch

Shanghai is promoting sports in China with the “Life Tracks” project

Chinese Olympians Explain How You Become a Professional Athlete

China is pushing ahead with its sports offensive. To reach the youth even better, the Shanghai Sports Bureau started the project “Life Tracks” in cooperation with TED Talks. Chinese Olympians explain what it takes to become a professional athlete. Among those participating: Wu Minxia, four-time Olympic gold medalist in high diving.

Diver Wu Minxia won five Olympic gold medals and supports "Life Tracks".
Diver Wu Minxia won five Olympic gold medals and supports "Life Tracks".

When you think of the keywords ‘sports’ and ‘China’, the next logical thought is usually: ‘Olympics.’ Beijing hosted the Summer Olympics in 2008, and in 2022 the Chinese capital will also stage the Winter Games. In addition to professional sports, popular sports have also received extreme promotion in recent years.

But Beijing isn’t the only metropolis in the vast country to have to dedicated itself to sports. Even 1200 kilometers south of Shanghai, the city administration is of the opinion that sporty citizens are healthier and therefore happier citizens.

At ISPO Beijing, ISPO.com spoke with Zhang Liang, Deputy Secretary of the Youth League Committee of the Shanghai Sports Bureau, about the authorities’ promotional strategies and the new cooperation between ISPO Shanghai (July 5-7), the Shanghai Sports Bureau, and TED Talks.

China’s athletes give insights into the athlete life

ISPO.com: Mr. Zhang, what exactly are the Shanghai Sports Bureau’s responsibilities?
Zhang Liang: The Shanghai Sports Bureau is responsible for the execution and management of sports events in the city. At the same time, the Bureau trains cadre athletes, promotes mass sports, and manages all public leisure sport facilities.

At ISPO Shanghai 2018 there will be a cooperation between the Shanghai Sports Bureau, ISPO, and TED Talks. What awaits trade fair visitors in July?
The basic idea of the “Life Track” project is to tell moving stories about Chinese athletes in various sports. As Deputy Secretary of the Youth League Committee, my primary concern is motivating young athletes with these stories. We very consciously decided to let the athletes tell their own stories, because nothing is more authentic than experiencing a life’s journey first-hand.

First contacts at ISPO Shanghai 2017

Which athletes have you already won over for “Life Track”?
Among others, we were able to get Wu Minxia, who won four Olympic gold medals in 3 meter synchronous high diving from 2004 to 2016. She also won the gold medal in single jumping from the 3 meter board in London in 2012. Also present is track cyclist Gong Jinjie, who won gold in the team sprint at the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

What kind of topics do the athletes talk about?
Our athletes mainly talk about their careers and how children who loved sports became professional athletes. Our goal is to show the audience – mostly parents with their children – what it takes to pursue a career as a professional athlete. The audience is meant to learn first-hand about training, sacrifice, but also all the positive experiences that sports can give.

Wu Minxia (right) and jumping partner Guo Jingjing won gold at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
Wu Minxia (right) and jumping partner Guo Jingjing won gold at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

How did the cooperation with ISPO Shanghai come about?
The first contacts were made at ISPO Shanghai 2017. Chen Xin, founder of the Floorball Development Center in China, was a speaker at the fair and also works closely with the Shanghai Sports Bureau. There were first talks and thus the idea was born to bring “Life Track” to ISPO Shanghai. The Shanghai Sports Bureau is always keen to enter into new partnerships, to establish a cultural exchange, and to meet the highest international standards in the field of sports.

Where and when can people watch the TED Talks outside of ISPO Shanghai?
The videos can be viewed on Tencent, and later this year there’s going to be a WeChat account where the videos will be available as well. In addition, we also have collaborations with TV stations in Shanghai.

Baseball and fencing are hot in Shanghai

However, the Shanghai Sports Bureau isn’t just represented in the digital sector. What is your agency’s offline strategy like?
Many of our athletes want to make an active contribution beyond their TED talks and help children on site in Shanghai. Baseball and fencing are very popular sports these days, and poorer families especially don’t have the financial means to introduce their children to these sports. This is where our athletes come into play and organize training units, for example.

How many children can participate in these training units?
The baseball project, for example, will initially be rolled out to four schools, reaching around 300 children between the ages of six and eight. There will be regular training and a league operation is also in the works that can be joined later by other schools.

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Florian Pertsch
Florian Pertsch
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