Olympics beckons for Shanghai as potential 2032 host aims to reach world sports city status – if it isn’t already among the elite
Summer Games could follow UFC, Masters Tennis, Diamond League and Formula 1 to China’s biggest city
A decade on from the Beijing OIympics, Shanghai took some of the sporting spotlight from its rival city. Shanghai sports official, Luo Wenhua, of the Shanghai Administration of Sports, revealed the city’s global ambitions this week. China’s biggest city has big ambitions: to become a sporting destination on the level of London, Paris and New York City.
It’s a competitive market, and one that will only become more so as international sports continue to expand their reach overseas. Spain’s La Liga recently announced its intention to stage a league fixture, more than likely featuring FC Barcelona, in the United States. The International Champions Cup has already been taking the Camp Nou club and its fellow elite European sides across the globe on preseason.
China’s not just on the radar for sports organisations, it’s the holy grail. While European sports also want US penetration, and likewise for US sports in Europe as seen by the NFL Europe games in London and Germany, every single sport is courting China. The AFL was recently back in the country for a game, the NHL is on the way later this month as are the NBA as part of their annual preseason.
The China policy of such governing bodies, individual clubs and athletes is still being developed, there is a gap in the market for a dominant sports city. That’s where Shanghai hopes to come in. Right now, it’s just one city on a rolling raft of hosts including Beijing, Guangzhou and Shenzhen for overseas sporting events, and many more from Nanning to Nanjing for more minor competitions.
Shanghai hosts a lot, already, and the case is there for it to host an Olympics – the assumed desire based on Luo’s overtures this week. It is the most cosmopolitan of the mainland’s megalopolises and as the country’s biggest city – over 25 million inhabitants at the last count – what’s a few more for a couple of weeks in August?
The next Summer Games slot is 2032 after Los Angeles caps off the next trio of host cities. It will have been 12 years since an Asian Summer Games and a decade since Beijing hosted the Winter Games. The IOC would plump for that, as they like everyone else look to China for growing sport and there would also be some pride in matching Japan as the only Asian country to have hosted two Summer Games.
Shanghai is preferable to Beijing for a number of reasons, not limited to the sense that the capital is becoming increasingly constrained because of its political importance and claustrophobic from a lack of space to expand. Shanghai has that space, a world-class metro system and several sports stadiums that could be given a new lick of paint.
But equally Shanghai suffers from some of the same problems of the capital, such as the clogged arteries that are the cities roads and airports that constantly seem overstretched. Investment will be needed to fix that in Shanghai, but there are already plans afoot for another airport to ease the strain on Hongqiao and the eighth circle of hell that is Pudong International.
Similarly, the work is underway on the new Pudong Football Stadium, where Chinese Super League side Shanghai SIPG will move to for 2019 or 2020 season. The new ground will replace Shanghai Stadium as their home ground and be the city’s second football-specific stadium – something that may come in handy if the English Premier League’s “39th game” ever gets off the ground again or if Manchester City owners City Football Group ever get their China expansion plans off the ground.
Shanghai City has a certain ring to it and the city fits the profile of New York and Melbourne.
That 40,000-seater football ground also strengthens the case for a China World Cup, as it meets the minimum capacity that Fifa demand, something that current home Shanghai Stadium does but Hongkou Stadium, home of Shanghai Shenhua, does not.
Shenhua do prove that there is a sporting culture in the city, with the atmosphere for home games comfortably among the best in the CSL and probably the pick of the city’s growing number of sporting events.
From traditional pub sports darts and snooker to the rarefied air of Formula 1, it’s already happening in Shanghai.
Elite sport is on the calendar and the stars come out for events Shanghai Masters tennis and the Diamond League athletics. Even the new kids on the sporting block are getting in on the act with UFC’s first China show in the city last year.
With that list you could argue Shanghai is global sports city – impressive without a team or athlete to hitch its star to – but if Luo’s to be believed then they are only getting started. We could be in for a treat. Roll on Shanghai 2032.