Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Was the Beijing Olympic Games a Success?
FUKUHARA Koichi / Journalist

October 14, 2008
On the closing day of the Olympic Games in Beijing, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge had nothing but high praise for the Games. "The Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) has clearly put the athletes in the center of these Games. We have this splendid village. We have state-of-the-art venues. We have impeccable operations." He also noted that more than 40 world records were set, and that more people than ever had watched the Games on television. All in all, he applauded the Games as having been a highly successful sporting event.

However, when bombarded with questions from foreign journalists who were unhappy with the Chinese authorities'strict enforcement of anti-terrorist measures and restrictions on reporting, President Rogge had to concede that not everything had been "perfect" as far as press freedom promised by BOCOG was concerned. He also expressed surprise that no citizen protest permits had been granted. While Olympic organizers had promised to set aside protest zones in the city during the games, authorities said all of the 77 applications for permits to protest were either withdrawn or rejected. "We found it unusual that none of those applications have come through," Rogge said.

The strained atmosphere in the press conference room reflected two conflicting views: those who look upon the Beijing Games slogan "One World, One Dream" positively, from the point of promotion of sport in the world, and those who think that China was not qualified to host the Games because, with regard to human rights and environmental protection, its reality is at odds with that slogan.

Burdened with a population of 1.3 billion, extensive territory, and ancient history, China is now struggling with globalization. So, in a sense, the slogan "One World, One Dream" can be considered to be a most appropriate slogan for China today.

In the days of Mao Zedong, China saw the world as three distinct worlds, the first world of superpowers, the second world of developed countries, and the third world of developing countries. China considered itself a revolutionary power and a nucleus of the third world. Deng Xiaoping departed from Mao's world strategy and advocated economic reform, aiming to join the developed countries of the "One World." China joined the WTO, struggled in the global market economy, and succeeded in achieving high economic growth, becoming the third country in Asia to host the Olympic Games. The Beijing Olympics was a chance to show the world China's achievement in the thirty years of economic reform and boost its national prestige. At the same time, it was an occasion to urge its own people to realize that they were now members of a great nation, as well as to promote further internationalization and rectify the imbalances caused by the high economic growth. That is the position of Hu Jintao's government.

In China, the Olympic Games had been called "a century-old dream of the Chinese nation." The fourth Olympic Games held in London in 1908 seemed a whole world away for China at the end of the Qing Dynasty. A pioneering scholar at Nankai University of Tianjin advocated sending "China to the Olympics," but the response was not enthusiastic. "When, if ever, is China going to be ready to participate in the Olympics and win medals, let alone host the Games?" So the slogan "a century-old dream of the Chinese nation" was coined to appeal to the nationalism of the developing country and inspire its people. In 2008, China took the idea one step further and adopted a slogan of peace and cooperation "One World, One Dream."

The expression "One Dream" reflects China's passionate desire to be recognized as a power at the Beijing Olympic Games and its strong pride that treating China as such should be a common benefit and desire of the world. At the welcoming banquet on the eve of the opening ceremony, President Hu Jintao asserted, "The Olympic Games are not just a sporting event. It is also a stage for cultural exchange. The Games are not only an opportunity for China but an opportunity for the world to disseminate the Olympic spirit of peace and friendship."

But a series of incidents contrary to the slogan "One World, One Dream" came to light. Since March 2008, China was confronted with one challenge after another, from the violent protests in Tibet aiming to put pressure on the Beijing Games, the terrorist activities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region and the protests overseas against the torch relay, to the great Sichuan earthquake, Beijing's environmental pollution, rising prices and fear of inflation. The Chinese government exercised its autocratic power to maintain security and ensured the opening of the games on time, but the image of the Beijing Games suffered a blow.

The violence in Tibet and the terrorist activities in Xinjiang exposed the fact that multi-ethnic nation China's ethnic and religious policies have not been successful, and that China itself has not yet become a stable "One World." The Sichuan earthquake showed that vast areas of China were still far beyond the benefits of high economic growth, and there, local governments were often self-righteous and corrupt, not acting in the best interest of the people.

At the same time, the Sichuan earthquake invited international sympathy and support from around the world. The Chinese accepted the help and expressed gratitude, which gave a good impression and was welcomed. At the Games in Beijing, thousands of volunteers were enlisted to help, people were educated to improve their manners as spectators, and traffic congestion was eased. The world recognized China's effort to learn the civilian rules of the developed countries of the "One World."

Behind China's amazing economic growth, the gap between the rich and poor has widened, and environmental destruction has worsened. Realizing these problems, President Hu Jintao stressed the need for a "scientific development perspective" and"building a harmonious society" at the 17th Communist Party Conference in 2007. Huge power and money were invested in the Olympic Games. Unless the slogan "One World, One Dream" is fully supported by the people and leads to the expansion of democracy in the future, China cannot boast that the Games were successful.

IOC President Rogge said that the Games have raised greater environmental awareness among the Chinese people and would encourage more participation in sport in China. He praised the Games for acting as a bridge between China and the world. "Through the Games, China has been scrutinized by the world, it's opened up to the world," he said. "The world has learned about China and China has learned about the world." Rogge said that the IOC was pleased with its decision in 2001 to bring the Games to China.

After the Olympic Games, the Chinese media have been trumpeting its success, and most people seem to be satisfied with the outcome. But has China really learned about the world sufficiently through the Games? Won't the top officials of central and local Communist governments, who have enjoyed the benefits of high economic growth, feel relieved by the success of the Games and lose the motivation to continue the reform? If the IOC's decision to give the Games to Beijing has been proved right after seven years, it is not now but only after observing China's political and social direction for some time that we can judge whether or not the Olympic Games in Beijing were a real success.  

The writer is a former Chief Editorial Writer of Kyodo News Service.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

北京五輪は成功したか 「一つの世界、一つの夢」と現実
福原亨一 / ジャーナリスト

2008年 10月 14日
北京五輪が閉幕した日、国際オリンピック委員会 ( IOC )のジャック・ロゲ会長は「選手本位の大会運営、すばらしい選手村、先端的な競技会場で文句のつけようのない運営だった」と評価した。「40以上の世界記録が更新され、テレビ視聴率が上がったことも重要だ」とも述べ、スポーツの祭典として大成功だったと認めた。
毛沢東時代の中国は、世界を第一(超大国)、第二(先進国)、第三(途上国)に三分し、自らを革命勢力・第三世界の中核と位置づけた。トウ小平は毛沢東の世界戦略に決別して改革開放を唱え、「一つの世界」の先進国に加わることを目指した。WTOに加盟、世界の市場経済に身を投じて苦闘し、高度成長に成功してアジアで三番目の五輪開催国になった。 北京五輪は改革開放30年の実績を誇示し、国家の威信を高めると同時に、国民に大国の一員としての自覚を促し、一層の国際化と、高度成長に伴うひずみの是正を推進するきっかけにしたい、というのが胡錦涛政権の立場だ。





一般社団法人 日本英語交流連盟

English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Was the Beijing Olympic Games a Success?