“Much more than a sponsorship”: Alibaba’s Chris Tung hails TOP Partnership as company looks ahead to Tokyo 2020

Since becoming a Worldwide Olympic Partner in 2017, Alibaba has committed to helping the IOC transform the Olympic Games for the digital era.

By drawing on its innovations across e-commerce, cloud services and digital media platforms, the company aims to help create a more connected, engaging, secure and efficient Olympic Games experience to benefit spectators, athletes, organisers and the millions of fans around the world all year round.

As the countdown to the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 continues, and Alibaba gears up for its first Summer Games as a TOP Partner, olympic.org spoke to the company’s Chief Marketing Officer, Chris Tung, about how its technology will be deployed in Japan and why it values being a member of The Olympic Partner Programme. 

Q. There is now less than one year to go until the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. How much is Alibaba looking forward to being a part of what will be its first Summer Games as a TOP Partner?

A. We’re so excited about the upcoming Olympic Games for many reasons. As we know, Tokyo 2020 will be the most innovative Games ever, so we're very excited to be a part of it. We'll also be playing a more active role in the way we support the Games with our digital technology, so these will be very important Games for us.

Q. In what ways will Alibaba be supporting the staging of Tokyo 2020?

A. Following our inaugural Games in PyeongChang, Alibaba has been working on a variety of cloud and e-commerce-based initiatives as part of our commitment to transform the Games for the digital era. One of our major initiatives for Tokyo 2020 will be the expansion of the Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) Cloud, which leverages Alibaba Cloud’s technology infrastructure. This will provide Rights-Holding Broadcasters with a variety of benefits that address challenges associated with broadcasting the Olympic Games.

We're also actively working with other TOP partners to be able to bring more transformation to the table. For example, Alibaba has partnered with Intel to develop the first-ever artificial intelligence-powered 3D Athlete Tracking Technology for Tokyo 2020. This uses AI to analyse videos of athletes and generate 3D models of them, which can help to improve their training, as well as provide more interactive broadcasting features for audiences.

And, we have launched the first-ever Olympic online store on Tmall for Chinese fans to celebrate the heritage of the Games and join the excitement for Tokyo 2020. 

Q. What attracted Alibaba to the TOP Programme?

A. As the world's largest retail commerce company and a global innovation leader, we want to leverage our technologies to make a positive impact around the world. The Olympic Games provides a very important platform to support our globalisation strategy. We see our relationship with the IOC as a strategic partnership that plays an integral role in all our globalisation efforts, and we are committed to supporting the IOC, to transform the Olympic Games for the digital era. 

For us, this is much more than a traditional sponsorship. We see partnership as a platform to showcase our innovations and technologies to the world through each edition of the Olympic Games. It’s also an opportunity to showcase how digital technology can make a difference in terms of engaging young consumers in today’s world. I think this transformative effort will have a profound impact, not only for the Olympic Movement, but also for all the sports fans and spectators around the world, taking the Olympic Games to another level with the technology we have and will continue to create. This is what we want to achieve, and this is what we hope the world will see and appreciate. 

Q. Why is an Olympic partnership important for Alibaba?

A. There is a great similarity between the spirit of the Olympic Games and the culture of Alibaba as a company. The Olympic Games provide the biggest stage for athletes around the world to compete equally. Every athlete has a chance to compete and win and grow on this global stage. No matter if you're from a small country or a big country, the world will come together to celebrate your achievements. This is what makes the Olympic Games so special.

We founded Alibaba because we saw the potential of technology to level the playing field so that any small business could compete in a global marketplace. That's the same spirit that empowers the Olympic Movement, and that's one of the reasons why I'm so proud that Alibaba is a part of the Olympic Games.

Q. How do you see your Olympic partnership developing in the years to come

A. We're very excited about the whole roadmap of future Games – starting with our relationship in Korea, then Japan, Europe, and finally the USA. As Alibaba continues to execute on our internationalisation strategy, we're very confident that, when the Games come, we’ll be able to support the Organising Committees even better. We have already kicked off some discussions with the Paris 2024 team, and we will soon begin preparing for the Games even further down the road.

Q. Have you always been a fan of the Olympic Games? What are your earliest memories of watching the Games?

A. Yes, I always remember the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 1984, when I was young. I can still feel the excitement of the Games and I remember watching them on TV with my family and friends. This was the first time I felt part of a larger world. I felt as if I was part of the Games, not just a spectator. I also remember the quality of the Games broadcast, which was unbelievable and unlike anything I had seen. Since then, I have learned from OBS that there was a major technology breakthrough in the way they broadcast the 1984 Games. This explains why it felt so magical at the time. I hope that Alibaba will be able to use our innovations help create a similarly impressive impact for fans and spectators around the world.

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