China does it again

14_YOG_Logo_360On Saturday last the world was once more treated to the coming out party of yet another Chinese city. Six years ago we were all treated to the delightful experience of Beijing, the capital city of China. This time around it was the turn of Nanjing in the Jiangsu Province.
The difference was in size rather than in content and experience.
It seemed not so very long ago that China was isolated by Western society largely as a result of the political ideological stance adopted by the country under the leadership of Chairman Mao Zedong. Notably, while the Caribbean country of Cuba received the political and economic acrimony of the government of the USA as a result of Fidel Castro’s Cuban revolution the latter left the door open to China. Former US President, Richard Nixon, despite having left White House under a cloud, was credited with officially facilitating the opening up of formal relations between China and the US.
Despite China’s growth as a world power the country remained something of a mystery to much of the international community. Interestingly, China saw sport and more particularly the Olympic Games as perhaps the ideal forum for launching itself onto the world stage.
Beijing bid for the Summer Olympic Games of 2000 and narrowly lost to Sydney, Australia. It is now well known that since at the time the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had no rules against gift giving of any sort in exchange for votes, the Australians worked up until the night before the vote to assure victory when the voting took place. Of course gift giving and outright bribery seemed to have been the norm for some time until the Salt Lake City scandal emerged as the straw that literally broke the camel’s back. Since then the IOC has become particularly concerned about ethics in sport.
China’s next bid came for the Summer Olympics of 2008 following the Games of 2004 in Athens, Greece. The Chinese city put forward was again Beijing.
The IOC was certainly not prepared for what the Chinese delivered in Beijing.
The facilities constructed for the Olympic Games of 2008 took the sporting spectacle to another level. In true Chinese tradition nothing was small. Each sport facility was an architectural masterpiece, a showpiece for the global community.
The Games Village broke new ground in terms of environmentalism giving impetus to the IOC’s emphasis on sport and the environment.
The opening ceremony remains to this day the most dynamic, exciting, appealing and awesome technological marvel in the history of sport and with the largest number of performers at such an event for all time.
Perhaps it was fitting that Michael Phelps set a new world record in the swimming pool for most gold medals at a single competition and Usain Bolt set new world records in the 100m, 200m and 4 x 100m on the track. These achievements were as memorable as the Games themselves and an appropriate accolade to the mega show put on by the Chinese in Beijing.
When Nanjing bid to host the 2nd Summer Youth Olympic Games the city won easily. To many voting in the IOC it was a veritable no brainer. Beijing’s success must have still been resonating amongst the voting membership. Add to the foregoing the country’s strong economic performance relative to the rest of the international community and the decision was understandable.
It is interesting that the first and second editions of the Summer Youth Olympics have been awarded to Asian countries.
China is a very diverse society with several different nationalities each with its own identity, like so many other countries we have come to know. This gives the Chinese a decidedly rich culture, generally.
The history of Chinese society is replete with the rich cultural diversity and this gave added value to the hosting of sporting activities. Sportspeople, like so many others from around the world are eager to experience Chinese culture in its many facets.
The Youth Olympic Games gave Nanjing an excellent opportunity o share its history and remarkable culture with the youths of the world in friendly competition mixed with Olympic education and a range of cultural activities.
The Chinese have a culture of physical activity and wellness that is well known. In Nanjing as everywhere else in China, people of all ages can be seen engaging in physical activity at different times during any given day. For them physical activity is inextricably linked to wellness.
The physical activity programme has been in existence in China long before anyone formally conceptualised Sport for All or Physical Activity for All and has been an integral component of every Chinese’s life style. This is the context therefore that this month’s Summer Youth Olympic Games are being held in Nanjing, much to the delight of the eight million inhabitants of the city, small by China’s standards.
The participants of the 204 National Olympic Committees (NOC) that made their way to Nanjing have been particularly enthused by the cultural experience. It has not really been a culture shock for the youngsters who are between the ages of 15 and 18 years, most of whom have already tasted international competition. They have all found Nanjing eager to welcome them and embrace their respective cultures.
The IOC’s insistence of cultural exchanges and Olympic education have afforded the participants a very rare opportunity in a foreign land that has become home for nearly three weeks.
Despite the IOC’s attempt at limiting Chinese exuberance and near-anxiety to again showcase their prowess in culture and heritage, the reality is that the people cannot contain themselves and everywhere Nanjing’s cultural contribution to China’s amazing reality has been laid bare for all to experience and enjoy.
Economy et al
China has not only joined the Asian Tigers, known globally as such because of the tremendous economic growth spurt enjoyed by the countries of the Indonesian peninsula. It has become the world leader in terms of economic growth for the past several years.
It is China’s economic reality that has played a decisive role in the Youth Olympic Games being brought to the country so soon after the Beijing spectacle of 2008.
The country’s economic strength and eagerness to show the international community its readiness to serve global youth in their sporting endeavours as in every other possible sphere of activity has allowed for numerous local sponsors to join the global partners of the IOC in delivering the Games.
Everywhere there was evidence that the Organising Committee ensured that the Nanjing populace were very much aware that the Games were coming. Now that the Games are on there is a new dynamism throughout the city.
An impressive Olympic Park outside the clutter of the Nanjing city centre, which would serve the populace well in the future, has been created to act as a cluster of several sports affording a sort of one-stop sporting city for the populace. The infrastructure while still huge by any standard is nonetheless tailored to suit the population size of Nanjing so that no white elephants would remain.
Sports that are not usually practised in Nanjing have been provided with temporary facilities that would be removed following the conclusion of the sporting festival.
The population have been asked to pay to attend the different sporting events and some have been better patronised than others. Transportation to and from the competition venues is not a problem for those wishing to attend.
Much has been written about the Chinese people over the years, much of which has been part of the propaganda campaigns waged against the government of the country for decades.
The participants at the 2nd Youth Olympic Games have nothing bad to say about the thousands of volunteers who have been at their service for the duration of the Games. While detractors may eagerly suggest that the volunteers have been trained for their respective roles the same can readily be said of the people who serve as volunteers in any country hosting mega events.
To the average participant he/she would have come to experience a people who are as warm as can be found anywhere else in the world and certainly warmer than some we have come to know.
Whether they were chauffers, NOC assistants, attaches, technical officials, protocol personnel or serving in any other capacity the volunteers delivered high quality service. When they fell short they apologised so profusely that it almost reached the point of embarrassment.
Everywhere the populace showed immense respect for the visitors regardless of where they encountered each other.
In every sense the delegations were made to feel that for the period that they were resident in Nanjing, China, they were at home.
We have always extolled the virtues of sport, especially its capacity to allow for the interaction of peoples of different cultures enough to engender, even for a brief period, a culture of global unity.
As the curtains are set to come down on the 2nd Summer Youth Olympic Games on 28 August the participants and the hosts would once more join hands and hearts ever desirous that what they were able to experience and share for the period could, like the seeds so often churned up and blown hither and tither by the wind, spread across the globe, setting up little flowers of hope for a world that today knows no peace or harmony and a people that knows no genuine love.
Sport holds so much promise. If only we can make it last as a former CEO of the United States Olympic Committee once stated, not just once every four years but every day.