Shanghai looks to Olympic hosts in push to become 'sports city'
Shanghai, Aug 29 (AFP) Shanghai aspires to become a sporting capital like Olympic hosts Tokyo and Paris, and staging a Games would be "the highest ideal", a top city official says.
While stopping short of committing to an Olympic bid, Shanghai's deputy director general of sports told AFP that officials in China's biggest city would be taking an interest in how Tokyo and Paris fare with the Summer Games in 2020 and 2024.
"It's not the first time for these world-renowned sports cities to host the Olympic Games. They must have a lot of good experience in hosting," Luo Wenhua, of the Shanghai Administration of Sports, said in a rare interview with international media.
"I think the next step may be to strengthen communication and let us learn from them."
Shanghai already hosts several major annual sporting events including a Formula One race, men's and women's golf, Diamond League athletics and the Shanghai Masters tennis, which is just a rung below Grand Slams and the ATP Finals.
In total, Shanghai stages about 160 sports events year, Luo said.
It's part of a push by the Chinese city's authorities to make Shanghai a "globally famous" sports metropolis by 2025.
Luo name-checked Tokyo, Paris, Los Angeles, London and New York as cities to emulate.
Of those, only New York has never hosted an Olympics and after the success of Beijing 2008, it seems almost inevitable that Shanghai will one day bid. The next available Summer Games slot is 2032.
Beijing will become the first city to stage both a Summer and Winter Games when it puts on the 2022 Winter Olympics, underlining China's enduring appetite for the Games.
"Speaking for myself as a sportsman, and for each athlete, participating in the Olympics is the ultimate goal," said Luo, a former pole vaulter.
"For a sportsman, hosting an integrated sports event like the Olympics would be the highest ideal and a dream." But Luo stressed that any bid is a decision for China's central government, "not one made by a city. If the conditions are mature, we may have such a thought (to bid)".
- 'Capital of eSports' -
When Beijing hosted the 2008 Olympics there was plenty of backslapping as China topped the medals table for the first time.
At the ongoing Asian Games in Indonesia, China are at their regular spot atop the medals chart, swelling national pride.
But Luo sees a subtle shift afoot as disposable incomes grow and sports participation rises in China, the world's second-biggest economy after the United States.
"In the past, people usually asked me how many gold medals we would win during the Olympic Games," he said.
"But now they will ask me where the nearest facility for sport is in their neighbourhood or if there are any events that they can participate in."
Under President Xi Jinping, China's communist government is on a drive to get more people exercising.
Football is the centrepiece of the initiative, and while the city of 24 million people is very much part of the push, Luo said Shanghai's government wants to ramp up interest and participation across a range of sports.
That drive includes eSports -- though hardly associated with stringent exercise -- which is growing fast across the world and has found a strong following in China.
"Shanghai has also proposed to become the capital of eSports. Now eSports is a hot topic," Luo said.
"I believe some of the world's top eSports events will choose to settle in Shanghai in the near future