Sport, Revolution and the Beijing Olympics

Sport, Revolution and the Beijing Olympics

Sport, Revolution and the Beijing Olympics

Sport, Revolution and the Beijing Olympics

Synopsis

The 2008 Olympic Games will be held in Beijing but many human rights activists support a boycott. They liken the circumstances to previous governments that used the games to glorify their regimes - most notoriously the Nazis in 1936. What has led to this perception and is it fair? Sport, Revolution and the Beijing Olympics is a cultural history of sport in China and challenges many such ingrained Western assumptions. The authors unpick the relationship of sport to imperialism and revolution, and examine its significance in both China and Taiwan at governmental and everyday levels. In the process, they successfully debunk harmful myths, such as the prevalence of drugs in Chinese sport among women athletes, and present a balanced view that is a much-needed corrective to popular understanding.

Excerpt

The rise of China has been hailed as one of the most important trends in the world for the next century, and with good reason. Deng Xiaoping's market reforms, subsequently developed by Prime Minister Wen Jianbo and President Hu Jintao, have turned China into one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Since 1978 China's economy has grown by an average of more than 9 per cent per year, and since 1991 by more than 11 per cent. Even if China's growth rate slows it is likely that it will in the early part of the twenty-first century march past that of the United States of America (USA) and others, and after a fivehundred year hiatus reclaim its place at the centre of the world economy. Since Deng Xiaoping marginalized Maoism in the 1980s, he has urged the Chinese to strive for the American way of life – a lifestyle based upon above all insatiable consumption. In the current climate of free-market popularity, enthusiasm for China's market reforms extends even to the left with born-again post-Maoist scholars embracing entrepreneurship, market efficiency and rationality. As Paul Bowles and Xiao-yuan Dong assert, China is not simply a case of a successful state-led development – it is an example of a successful socialist-state-led development (Smith, 1997: 2).

The origin of modern sport in China according to the Chinese Olympic Committee is complicated in that there were no words in the Chinese vocabulary which corresponded to the Western terms of 'sport' and 'physical education', It was not until the nineteenth century that sport in the modern sense of the word found its way into China, first in the form of military drills and then as part of the curriculum of Western-type schools (Blanchard, 1995; Brownell, 1995; Close et al., 2007). Sport was first translated as 'ticao', or physical training. Indeed one of the indications of both the construction of modern sport and a process of modernization in China is the social construction of sport itself as a modern phenomenon. The Qing government by 1911 had certainly engaged Western instructors to teach foreign drills and physical training including athletics, boxing, fencing, football, gymnastics and swimming. The introduction of modern sport was facilitated by the emergence of influential military schools and colleges and YMCA and YWCA institutions founded by American, British and other nations who had a vested interest in the spread of Christianity.

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