Alibaba joins Olympics in 'game changer'

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E-commerce giant Alibaba has become a digital sponsor of the Olympic Games under a partnership through 2028 with the International Olympic Committee, the two parties said on Thursday during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

The announcement came just two days after President Xi Jinping spoke at the forum about the benefits of globalization and driving forward global growth through innovation.

Alibaba will also become a founding partner of the Olympic Channel, a digital avenue aimed at better engaging and connecting with Olympic audiences around the world, said Alibaba Chairman Jack Ma.

"I'm a believer in globalization. Olympics is about the spirit of globalization, teamwork and connecting with each other," Ma said during the news conference. He called the collaboration a "game changer".

By providing cloud services and e-commerce platforms, Alibaba will become the first Chinese company to sign a three-term sponsorship with the organization, joining hands with brands like Coca-Cola and McDonald's as top Olympic sponsors.

Thomas Bach, president of the IOC, said the historic partnership with Alibaba will "transform the global Olympic movement".

"This is a groundbreaking, innovative alliance, and it will help drive efficiencies in the organization of the Olympic Games through 2028, while also supporting the global development of digital opportunities including the Olympic Channel," he said.

Alibaba Cloud's big data analytics will help achieve a more efficient and secure staging of the Olympic Games, Ma said.

Its cross-border online shopping sites, which now serve around 500 million consumers in China and abroad, will bridge fans who seek official Olympic-licensed products anytime they want.

Besides, Alibaba will also help develop and customize the digital Olympic Channel to enable billions of Olympic fans to have easier access to the games.

"As a company, Alibaba is founded in China but built for the world. Olympics can empower our dreams, and we hope our technology can empower the spirit of the Olympics," Ma said.

The partnership came amid growing protectionist and anti-globalization sentiment, suggesting that Chinese enterprises have become an active player in global governance, said Qi Xiaozhai, a consultant for the Shanghai Commission of Commerce.

"The announcement came at a great time as political and business leaders convene to discuss how nations could walk toward each other. As Chinese companies set foot overseas, they have become crucial forces for promoting globalization and integrating the Chinese economy into the world," he said.

Companies like Alibaba have long acknowledged the importance of freer, more inclusive and innovation-driven trade, and they are making efforts to extend the benefits to more people, Qi said.

Alibaba has vowed to serve 2 billion customers globally over the next two decades.

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