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IOC president Bach hails Beijing legacy

Olympics chief lauds China's achievements at Winter Youth Games, touts possible future wushu and esports programs

Updated: 2024-01-31 09:37
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The outstanding performance of the young Chinese athletes at the Winter Youth Olympics is "one of the great legacies of Beijing 2022". XINHUA

GANGNEUNG, South Korea — Chinese athletes' success in the Gangwon Winter Youth Olympics is the great legacy of Beijing 2022, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said on Monday.

Gangwon 2024 will run until Thursday, with China having won 16 medals, just one fewer than medal table leader Italy.

The Games are the first comprehensive winter sports competition that China has taken part in since the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.

Bach believes that the outstanding performance of the young Chinese athletes is "one of the great legacies of Beijing 2022".

"You can see how the winter sports development programs before Beijing 2022 are paying off, and you can also have great hope for future Winter Olympics," he said.

The IOC chief spoke highly of China's fulfillment of its promise to engage 300 million people in winter sports and how, this winter, Chinese people's enthusiastic participation in winter sports has boosted the country's economy.

"There are growing contributions of sport in general, in particular of the winter sports industry to the GDP in China," said Bach.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach. XINHUA

"This great engagement of so many Chinese people in winter sports also contributes to a healthy society, because sports are extremely important for physical and mental health."

According to Bach, people can see "the values of the sport of being reflected in an excellent way" in China.

"So, I can only congratulate China on this great development and on this wonderful legacy of the truly exceptional Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games."

The former German fencer also mentioned the possibility of China bidding for future Olympic events. He stated that it is China's decision, but the IOC is open to all proposals and willing to give advice.

Shanghai will host the inaugural Olympic Qualifier Series, a new series of festival-style events combining sport with urban culture, along with Budapest. The Shanghai stop will be held from May 16 to 19.

Bach said Shanghai was chosen because of China's "outstanding successes" in hosting past Olympic events.

"China is also on the Olympic map this year, leading up to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games," he said.

Artistic evaluation

Bach stated that the international recognition and participation of wushu will play a crucial role in determining its future as an official sport in the Olympic Games.

Wushu, also known as martial arts, has been included as a medal sport in the upcoming 2026 Dakar Youth Olympic Games, which is often regarded as a key indicator for the introduction of new sports into the Olympics.

During the 2014 Youth Olympics in Nanjing, organizers held a wushu competition as part of a cultural and educational program.

Bach mentioned that wushu, similar to climbing and breaking, must undergo testing in a "laboratory "environment. Both climbing and breaking were added to the Olympic Games, following successful trials at previous Youth Olympic Games.

"We are pleased to include wushu in the official program of Dakar 2026," Bach stated. "It is highly valued by Senegal, the host country of the Youth Olympic Games, and there is considerable excitement surrounding it."

"The Olympic debut of wushu in two years is highly anticipated," the IOC president announced.

Bach noted that the traditional Chinese sport would have a solid foundation for evaluation after its Olympic debut in Dakar.

"Following its debut, we must wait and observe the level of international recognition and participation, as well as the competition's overall performance," he said.

"After this analysis, we will be in a position to make a decision regarding wushu's inclusion in the Olympic program in the future," Bach concluded.

Virtually a reality

Bach also said that esports is set to make its Olympic debut as early as next year.

During the 141st IOC session in October last year, the committee announced a plan to create the Olympic Esports Games.

Bach stated the plan is not 100 percent set yet, but the study is making great progress.

"I guess we can count on the first edition, and offer an Olympic Esports Games in 2025, or, at the latest, in 2026," Bach said.

IOC's first engagement with the esports community was the organization of the Esports Forum in 2018 in Lausanne. In 2021, the IOC developed the Olympic Virtual Series, and then launched the Olympic Esports Week in Singapore last year.

Bach said there were, on the one hand, virtual sports that blend esports with physical activity, while on the other, some of the most popular video games that are compliant with Olympic values.

"With this, I think we can put together a very interesting, but also values-based program," he added.

Bach also noted impact of artificial intelligence. "AI will play a major, and very important role, not only in sports and the Olympic Games, but in all our lives," Bach said.

According to Bach, with the assistance of AI, sports can be democratized by ensuring the best training methods, medical care and mental health treatments are at the disposal of all athletes around the world.

"With AI, we can make this available for everybody," said Bach, who forecasted that AI would increase solidarity with athletes and better disseminate the Olympic values and spirit.

Additionally, with the help of AI, the IOC will most likely improve the judging and refereeing systems, the IOC chief added.


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