The Real Dilemma

Article excerpt

For China, the 29th Olympic Games represent an important juncture in the country's history. Having emerged from 20th century communism, China has entered a new era characterised by state-controlled capitalism, a drive for international competitiveness and a more outward-looking approach. Clearly the transition has been successful in some regards: recent economic growth figures were among the highest in the world. The wealth this has helped to create is one of the foundations upon which the Games have been built. The event itself, in turn, represents a significant opportunity for China to present a modern face to the world and to assert its status as a world power, both economically and in sporting terms.

The country has taken every opportunity to promote its hosting of the Games. This has included the now-infamous global torch relay, which although intended to be a shared celebration, had the opposite effect in some countries, highlighting social and political grievances associated with Chinese sovereignty and its preparations for the Games themselves.

While it is not the intention of the Journal to challenge or defend the Chinese position, we do question the impact and response of those in sport who are directly affected by what has happened so far. It seems we are now being tested in a completely new arena: a sponsorship property that is arguably the most valuable in the world; a global mega-event that is staged in summer only once in four years; and a host country that is an incredibly important marketplace, especially for the corporations that have the power and resources to associate themselves with an event such as the Olympics.

Ahead of the 2012 Games in London, one already senses that some of the UK domestic sponsors have been disconcerted by what they witnessed in the streets of the British capital in early April. …