Academic journal article Proceedings: International Symposium for Olympic Research

Olympic Education Programmes for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games a Collaboration of Grassroots and Government

Academic journal article Proceedings: International Symposium for Olympic Research

Olympic Education Programmes for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games a Collaboration of Grassroots and Government

Article excerpt


The Games of XXIX Olympiad have drawn worldwide attention since 13 July 2001, when Beijing was granted the right to host the Olympics. (1) The main reason is that the games will be staged in a country with quite a different social and cultural background from that of previous host countries. There has been much speculation about what impact the Games will possibly generate on the social and political spheres of this most populous country in the world. It is the author's contention that Olympic education, as a key element of the Olympic Movement, could play an important role during the period leading up to and following the Games. "Olympic education" is the label used to describe the programs designed to provide Chinese people with basic knowledge about the Olympic Games, promote sports and physical fitness as a way of life, instill certain ideals and values, and allow the populace to personally take part in the whole phenomenon of the Olympic Games and "walk together with the Olympics," as a popular slogan goes.

The author has been personally involved in developing and promoting Olympic education in primary and secondary schools since 2001. It is from this perspective that he describes the value of Olympic education for Chinese students, and analyzes what Beijing Olympic education can contribute to the Olympic movement and whether it can leave a lasting legacy for China and the world Olympic Movement. The author received a Western education in Olympic history and ideology and sought to introduce elements of the thinking of Pierre de Coubertin, reviver of the modern Olympic Games (est. 1896), into China's Olympic education by adapting it to suit the current needs for reform in the Chinese educational system.

The author can attest that Olympic education began as a grassroots initiative that developed a set of basic principles and a rich repertoire of activities for several years before the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) got involved. Building on the experiences of a small number of schools, oujr Olympic Education team began to promote Olympic education city-wide through the designation of "Olympic Education Model Schools." This article argues against the view sometimes expressed in the Western media that Olympic education is only government propaganda or a show for the media. However, it acknowledges the challenges of continuing the programs after the Olympic Games and ensuring that their value is preserved.

Coubertin's Ideology

A hundred years ago, Coubertin felt that France was behind Great Britain and Germany in its development and proposed that one reason was the difference in their educational systems. In his view, physical education did not have much priority in the French curriculum and people thought it had no educational value. Schools and universities were fixed one-dimensionally on sciences and development of the mind. Coubertin found the English school system exemplary, especially the public school education found at Rugby School and in Arnold's pedagogy. His intention was not to re-install the Olympic Games as a renaissance sport movement. Instead, he wanted to establish a new and universal education concept and foster a child's personal development through a mixture of body and mind development. To him, sport was not only physical training, but contributed also to ethical and intellectual development. Olympic sports can provide stimulation that can motivate pupils and schools. Therefore, in 1894, at the first meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the value of Olympic education was discussed as key point of the proposed movement. Afterwards, an Olympic education concept was laid out in the constitution of the IOC, the Olympic Charter. In Coubertin's Memoires Olympique (1931), he interpreted Olympism as a "school of nobility and moral purity as well as of endurance and physical energy-but only if ... honesty and sportsmanship like unselfishness are as highly developed as the strength of muscles, the essence of Olympism is education. …

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