China Beat Archive


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July 18, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright July 18, 2008 Jim Leibold. Used by permission.


This year is China’s year. On the 8th day of the 8th month at 8pm, it will light the flame of the 29th Olympics Games—bringing not only the world’s athletes to Beijing but also thousands of foreign visitors and millions more through the massive global media contingency that will descend on the capital.

What will the media spotlight capture? The luster of an ancient civilization and emerging superpower as many in China hope; or the darker, seedier corners of an authoritarian yet fragile party-state as many in the West suspect.

According to the Chinese government, the Olympics games have never been about politics and nor should the Beijing Games. The Games are all about sports: the principles of peace, fair play, friendship, honour and glory on the track and in the pool. The Games are about cultivating and spreading the “Olympic Spirit” and “Olympic Culture” throughout China and the wider world.

But in reality the Games have always been about politics. One only has to recall Hitler’s showcase Berlin Olympics of 1936, the tragic deaths at the Munich Olympics in 1972, or the boycotts of the Montreal, Moscow and Los Angeles games. And the Beijing Olympics are shaping up to be the mother of all political events: as different global constituencies compete for resources, power and influence (not to mention money) in the main event as the athletes go for gold on the sidelines.