By hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, China has been hit hard. More than getting the event, Beijing has achieved what no other city in the world has so far managed to achieve: becoming the first to host both the Summer and Winter Games. And this is after fourteen years. “It’s a pride for the Chinese, and especially for the Pekingese,” Antoine Bondaz, China specialist, researcher at the Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS) and instructor at Science Po confirms.
If hosting the two Olympic events is a source of pride, then organizing the 2022 Games has above all enabled Beijing to take a new step. “China can present itself as a superpower in all areas. Including the Winter Olympics, which Western countries have a complete monopoly in terms of medals. So we are no longer in dedication, which we felt after the 2008 Olympics, but in recognition: China now weighs in all areas. including winter sports, Antoine Bondaz confirms.
What Carol Gomez confirms, Director of Research in the Geopolitics of Sport at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (Iris) : “The Winter Games have a ‘tied club’ aspect. If you can find athletics tracks almost everywhere, this is not the case for ski lifts, or snowboard or bobsleigh trails. Thus, these facilities express technical and technological progress in terms of These are arguments that the Chinese use in their official speeches.”
Even if the 2022 Games follow in the footsteps of 2008, “However, they must be clearly distinguished”, Nuance specialist on Chinese issues Antoine Bondaz. First, the years 2022 and 2008 are distinguished by the geopolitical context, particularly with regard to the issue of human rights. Yes Human rights abuses were already reported prior to 2008, and are much less well documented than they are today.
A symbol of this change of era: Last December, the United States, followed by the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and Japan decided a diplomatic boycott. In 2008, US President George W. Bush personally attended the opening ceremony. “It was the first time a US president had traveled to an opening ceremony outside the United States.”, defines Jean-Loup Chapellet, professor emeritus at the University of Lausanne who specializes in Olympic issues.
Fourteen years ago, Westerners, benefactors at first, hoped that China’s access to the global sports arena through the Games would bring it closer to them. Antoine Bondaz remembers that awarding the 2008 Olympics to Beijing would not democratize, but would liberate the country, in terms of human rights or otherwise, and that there would be improvement. At the time, little was said about Xinjiang, but mostly about Tibet and human rights abuses in the rest of China. There was hope, but hope disappointed. As is often the case.” Then the hoped-for legacy of the 2008 games faded.
“In fact, the precedents in which the Olympic Games alone allowed the liberation or even democratization of a country, did not exist.”Antoine Bondaz is a researcher at the Foundation for Strategic Research
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In fact, two years after the 2008 Games, China had become the second largest economy in the world, and Xi Jinping came to power by developing a highly authoritarian regime. “finally, Carol Gomez analysis, We realize that this Western view of China was naive, and that the Chinese took advantage of this offer to assert themselves on the international arena and thus develop their country in their own way.” away from Western models.
The 2008 Olympics underlined China’s long-standing policy of using sport for diplomatic purposes. “They were tested as a dedication. China became a great power, now able to organize events like the Olympics. The opening ceremony was also particularly wonderful, and it impressed, perhaps even more than the Olympics themselves and had a huge impact in the terms of the picture,” Notes Antoine Bondaz.
Thus, this “dedication” to Beijing is equivalent to several years of development. “Since 1970, China has invested heavily in sports, which has allowed it to reach the top, especially through summer sports, organizing events such as the Olympic Games, Asian Games, World and Ski World Cup,” Jean-Loup Chapellet continues. The investments that were the main motive behind it “China’s true will to make sport a lever and an instrument of influence to show its strength”, Carol Gomez, Director of Research in the Geopolitics of Sport at the Institute of International and Strategic Relations (IRIS) supports it.
In 2001, thirty years after launching its sports policy, China achieved two major successes: Beijing was selected as the host city for the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the country joined the World Trade Organization (WTO). Its amazing growth arouses admiration beyond its borders. “We have opened up to him the major tournaments from the perspective of the WTO, with a very commercial and economic approach, and through those of the International Olympic Committee,” Carol Gomez confirms.
“The ceremonial rhetoric of obtaining the Games gave the feeling that China had now entered the Western world through the Games and the World Trade Organization, as this was the first time that China hosted the Games on its soil.”Carol Gomez, Director of Research at the Geopolitics of Sport
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The 2008 Olympic Games also changed the sporting dimension of China. The sport became more professional, preparation plans were made, and many structures emerged from the ground. Winning bet: In 2008, China was, for the first time, the most successful country with 51 gold medals, and a total of 100 medals. “I have invested a lot in the Olympic disciplines and the Paralympics. This political will to invest in sports is also a legacy, including for political reasons. In fact, in terms of image, it should be China, which wants to be a great power, in all areas, including in that sport”, Remarks by Antoine Bondaz, an expert on China.
The Chinese made the same logic for 2022. “They have invested a lot in preparing the teams, as France did for example with Claude Onsta and the National Sports Agency to shine in Paris 2024. It is not enough to organize the Games, you have to get medals too. And while they ranked 16th among the countries in Pyeongchang, and from They will likely move into the top ten in Beijing.” Jean-Loup Chapellet, a specialist in Olympic issues, predicts.
The Chinese sports plan, in place since the 1970s, now has a very specific goal. “China is in the race for the sporting Grand Slam, a country that hosts the Summer and Winter Games, the World Championships in Athletics and the FIFA World Cup, notes Jean-Loup Chapellet. There are very few countries that have been able to achieve this, because not everyone can organize the Winter Games.” After the 2022 games, China will only have one fund left to tick, and that is to organize the soccer World Cup, which is its next ambition.