Already the world has seen the political, economic, and cultural significance of hosting the 2008 Olympics in Beijing—in policies instituted and altered, positions softened, projects undertaken. But will the Olympics make a lasting difference? This book approaches questions about the nature and future of China through the lens of sports—particularly as sports finds its utmost international expression in the Olympics.
Drawing on newly available archival sources to analyze a hundred-year perspective on sports in China, Olympic Dreams explores why the country became obsessed with Western sports at the turn of the twentieth century, and how it relates to China’s search for a national and international identity. Through case studies of ping-pong diplomacy and the Chinese handling of various sporting events, the book offers unexpected details and unusual insight into the patterns and processes of China’s foreign policymaking—insights that will help readers understand China’s interactions with the rest of the world.
Among the questions Xu Guoqi brings to the fore are: Why did Mao Zedong choose competitive ping-pong to manipulate world politics? How did the two-China issue nearly kill the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games? And why do the 2008 Olympics present Beijing with unprecedented dangers and opportunities? In exploring these questions, Xu brilliantly articulates a fresh and surprising perspective on China as an international sport superpower as well as a new “sick man of East Asia.” In Olympic Dreams, he presents an eloquent argument that in the deeply unsettled China of today, sport, as a focus of popular interest, has the capacity to bring about major social changes.
[An] accomplished study of China and sport...Where Olympic Dreams scores highest is in describing and explaining the importance of the Olympic Games to China's self-esteem and its sense of belonging on the international stage, and how successive leaders have focused on the powerful political platform the event provides.
In this history of sports in China over the past century, Xu accents the cultural intertwining of athletics and politics as the country continually increases its emphasis on the former to enhance its stature in the world.
Thoroughly researched and lucidly articulated, Mr. Xu‘s book provides a unique perspective on China through the history of sports. Just as baseball and football define the heart and mind of America, China’s promotion of various sports as national games also speaks to the cultural psyche of a country seeking recognition in the global political arena.
Probably no Olympic Games has been so deeply tied to a political project as Beijing's. The links between politics in China and the games are well told in Olympic Dreams by the historian, Xu Guoqi, who describes how for more than a century the Olympics has been wrapped up in Chinese ideas about national revival and international prestige.
Xu Guoqi's masterful survey of China's hundred-year tryst with the Olympics, Olympic Dreams: China and Sports, 1895-2008, reminds the reader that sports have been central to the construction of the Chinese nation and its links with the rest of the world...Xu shows how politicians have micromanaged every aspect of China's sporting progress.
What distinguishes this...from so many of the recent flood of books on China, is its emphasis on the political and national role of sport in the Chinese ascendancy...The Olympics are emblematic of the "new" China but, interestingly, [Xu] speculates on whether the long-held dream of the Communist party to host the Olympics may well spell the beginning of its end.
This highly readable book traces the history of China's sporting ambition, from an obscure lecture in Tientsin in 1908 to the "high-quality Olympics with Chinese characteristics"...It is a useful introduction to an awkward topic that simply won't go away.
A thoughtful and highly informative book that all interested in the Beijing Olympics will find rewarding, and it should be required reading for journalists covering the 2008 Games.
The entire history of [China's] involvement with the Olympics, and international sport in general, has been overtly political, as Xu Guoqi ably demonstrates in Olympic Dreams.
Thoroughly researched and painstakingly footnoted.
The 2008 Beijing games, like other sporting events in the past, will be a window into Chinese national pride and global ambitions. Even though Olympic Dreams was written before the March Tibet riots and the subsequent outbursts of Chinese nationalism, Mr. Xu’s general argument still stands, and is even somewhat prescient...Mr. Xu has a clear and readable writing style, and his analysis is punctuated with lively examples...Beijing’s politicization of sports clearly has some uniquely Chinese characteristics. But that is not necessarily the main lesson of this book. Examples of similar phenomena—from Hungary to Argentina—remind that sports and politics are often two sides of the same coin. The grander the event, the more political the stakes.
- 392 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
- Foreword by William C. Kirby
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