Shanghai, Paris' shared sporting passions strengthen Sino-French connections

Xinhua | May 17, 2024


This year marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and France, a milestone highlighted by the vibrant interplay of sports and urban culture in two iconic cities: Shanghai and Paris.

Paris, with its romantic backdrops, is preparing to host the upcoming Olympic Games under the slogan "Games Wide Open," aiming to transform public spaces into arenas of accessibility and inclusion.

Meanwhile, Shanghai buzzes with its own dynamic energy, as it hosts the inaugural Olympic Qualifier Series (OQS), a proving ground for Olympic hopefuls.

The two cities, though continents apart, craft a lively scene where sports and city living merge, revealing not just their joint embrace of Olympic values and shared sporting ambitions, but also highlighting the deep cultural connections between the two nations.


Both Shanghai and Paris are waterfront cities. It's no coincidence that these two cities have chosen to intertwine the beauty of Olympic competition with their riversides, seamlessly blending the Olympics with urban life, allowing citizens to experience and engage with the Games in their daily lives.

Running from May 16 to 19 in Shanghai and later in Budapest, the inaugural OQS hosts 464 athletes in BMX freestyle cycling, breaking, skateboarding and sport climbing, with over 150 quota places up for grabs at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

Beyond the competition grounds, Shanghai is hosting a City Sports Festival starting about one month before the event, featuring a series of music, art and culture-related activities. The festival aims to bring the Olympic passion closer to sports enthusiasts across Shanghai and China.

"When we initiated the conversation with Shanghai, we quickly noticed that there was a very strong vision, which is in line with the vision of the IOC to bring support to the people," said Pierre Fratter-Bardy, IOC Olympic Games Strategy & Development Associate Director, during a press conference in Shanghai.

In Paris, "Games Wide Open" is the promise of the Paris Olympics, with opening ceremonies planned on the Seine, iconic landmarks transformed into arenas, and Olympic marathons open to the public.

One of the major innovations of the Paris Olympics is the integration of famous landmarks with various competitions, such as beach volleyball under the Eiffel Tower, and the wrestling and judo competitions at the nearby Champs de Mars.

"I am very much looking forward to the opening ceremony by the River Seine, combined with urban civilization. This is a very bold and romantic idea, and I hope to see the charm of this attempt," Chang Yu, former director of the Press and Publicity Department of the Beijing Winter Olympics organizing committee, told Xinhua.


The Huangpu River and the Suzhou Creek carry the past, present and future of Shanghai. With the comprehensive opening of the Suzhou Creek Riverside Trail, sport has been integrated into the urban landscape.

"It's a massive upgrade. It went from a place where you could run to a place where you're invited to run," Jacques Roizen, Managing Director, China Consulting of DLG, who lives by the Suzhou Creek, told Xinhua during a recent interview in Shanghai.

Roizen, a Paris native who has lived in Shanghai for 11 years, is passionate about sports and has participated in the Shanghai Marathon twice.

"When I run with foreigners who are visiting from France along the Suzhou Creek, what they're experiencing is the state-of-the-art running experience," said Roizen, adding that "the facilities are getting more and more modern and more accessible."

Paris, Roizen's hometown, hosted the Olympics in 1900 and 1924, leaving a profound legacy of sports in the city.

Pierre Rabadan, deputy mayor of Paris in charge of sports and Olympic affairs, told Xinhua that sports are an important part of Paris' cultural core.

"The impact of the Olympics on Paris has been immense. On one hand, it has inspired public enthusiasm for sports, with major events having a demonstrative effect. On the other hand, through the Olympics, we have left a rich Olympic legacy," said Rabadan.

"It not only attracts people to watch sports during the Games but also encourages them to participate in sports activities," added Rabadan.


Sports exchanges not only enhance mutual understanding and friendship between the people of China and France but also promote exchanges and cooperation in various fields such as culture and economy.

Decathlon, a French company, opened its first offline retail store in China in 2003. From the first store in Shanghai to nearly 200 stores today, Decathlon currently employs over 10,000 staff in China.

For Decathlon's Global CEO Barbara Martin Coppola, China has become one of Decathlon's most important markets.

Standing at the historical milestone of the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between China and France, Coppola said that the Chinese sports industry market still has great potential, expressing hopes that Decathlon can continue to benefit from the future development of China's sports industry.

"It's a big milestone and I think it's a unique opportunity to strengthen the relationships even more," said Coppola, adding that "we can be a unique link for exchange to strengthen the relationship between the two countries."

The Shanghai-based company Double Happiness enjoys a long history with Paris, said the company's general manager Lou Shihe, adding that the firm's Rainbow table made its first appearance at the 2003 World Table Tennis Championships in Paris.

For the upcoming 2024 Paris Olympics, table tennis tables featuring three-dimensional design, black and pink color schemes, and chip lighting systems will be showcased at the Olympic venues along the Seine River, Lou added.

"The hosting of the OQS not only witnesses the friendship between China and France but also promotes the development of urban sports such as skateboarding, breaking, BMX freestyle cycling, and sport climbing. It also contributes to the international dissemination of Shanghai's urban brand and accelerates the construction of a globally renowned sports city," said Xu Bin, Director General of Shanghai Administration of Sports.