THE vice-mayor of Shanghai, Mr Gong Xueping, has refused to take the plunge. Mr Gong, who has been charged with the task of getting Shanghai ready for the East Asian Games, was asked by a reporter if he would be willing to follow in the footsteps of Beijing's ebullient vice-mayor, Mr Zhang Baifa, and leap into the void if the games were not a complete success. He declined. Mr Zhang threatened to jump off the top of Beijing's tallest building, the 52-storey Jingguang Centre, if the Asian Games were not a success, while Mr Gong was asked if he would be willing to leap into Shanghai's famous Huangpu River. ''Zhang Baifa's promise [to jump] was an expression of his determination, this spirit is worthy of study . . . but my decision not to jump is also a type of determination,'' Mr Gong told the East Asian Games Express newspaper. Shanghai residents pointed out that a dive into the highly-polluted Huangpu would guarantee the end of Mr Gong's political career. ''One mouthful of that stuff and you're a gonner,'' one long-time resident said. Mr Gong's reluctance to take on the challenge is perhaps an indication of the Shanghai authorities' lack of confidence about the games which are scheduled to open on May 9. Political observers in the city say the athletics meet, which will feature teams from eight countries, has been fraught with organisational problems and financial difficulties. ''They don't have enough sponsors and they are desperately trying to raise the cash to cover their expenses,'' one source said. ''Just about all they have managed to do so far is put a few flags and banners up in the streets,'' he added.