and the Public Intellectual
The historical and sociological study of sport and physical culture in China matters for a number of reasons: it (i) helps to avoid a parochial or insular understanding of sport and physical culture; (ii) stops research retreating into the present; (iii) provides the tools by which to evaluate change, whether it be social or otherwise, continuity and meaning; (iv) helps, like sociology, to destroy sporting myths; (v) warns against uncritical acceptance of sporting heritage, traditions and identities; and (vi) helps to illuminate past themes, events and changes in their own terms as mattered at the time, and therefore sport in the past is explained on its own terms. All human beings, institutions and collectivities need a past, and to that end sport and physical culture in China is no different. All historical and/or sociological studies of sport are part of a larger and more complex world, and therefore the historical-sociological study of sport designed for only a particular section or part of that world cannot on its own be good history or sociology, because it needs to engage with other sporting worlds. The historical and sociological study of sport tends to remain dominated by the study of Western sport, despite notable and valuable advances in such areas as anthropology and geography. Identity sports history, sociology, geography or anthropology, although it may be comforting to particular groups, left on its own can be dangerous if it leads or contributes to forms of fundamentalism.
It is hoped that Sport, Revolution and the Beijing Olympics helps with all of the above. It may be easy at the beginning of the twenty-first century to be pessimistic about the future prospects of a socialism of social empowerment, but it is important to remember also that around the world many different proposals or paths to alternative societies are being experimented with. We do not know what the limits of such partial and piecemeal experimentation and innovation are within capitalism, but what is certain is that we have not reached these limits yet, and the study of sport and physical culture in China provides ample evidence of the promise and possibilities of sport and physical culture in China.
When the first summit of the world's leading nations met in 1975 it was an informal get-together involving the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Japan and Italy who met to discuss the recession caused by an Arab embargo on oil exports. The G6 summit became the G7 in 1976 when the then US President Ford invited Canada to balance out the Europeans, and then in 1988 the G7 became the G8 with the inclusion of Russia. In June 2004, ahead of the meeting