To play or not to play : a historic overview of the Olympic Movement in China from 1894 to 1984

An, Kang
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

This report looks at China's involvement in the Olympic Movement from 1894- 1984, during which the collapse of the Qing Dynasty and China's desire to build a strong national state identity coincided with the revival of the modern Olympic Games. As Western sports were introduced to China at the turn of the 20th century, they were regarded as a way to cultivate military spirits among the Chinese citizens thus strengthening the entire nation. Despite a generally low level of athletic performance and great economic hardship amid foreign invasions during this time, the Nationalist government, Kuomintang, sent a one-man team to the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics for the first time. Although no medal was won that year, the political impact made by participation was felt domestically in China and overseas. Subsequently, the opportunities to take part in the Olympic Games were regarded as a way to legitimize China as a national state. This became especially true after the establishment of the PRC in 1949, after which the previously founded government Kuomintang moved to Taiwan, taking with it the national sports governing body, the CNAAF. As both governments in Beijing and Taipei claimed themselves to be the only legal government representing the entire country of China, another fight for the exclusive right to represent sports in China started in the IOC between the PRC and ROC delegations. IOC's apolitical position regarding the "two Chinas" issue complicated the matter and even forced the PRC to withdraw from the Olympic Movement in 1958. With China's eventual return to the IOC in 1979, it boycotted the first available Olympic Games in 1980 in Moscow, at the lead of its new ally, the United States. Four years later, China sent a delegation of 215 athletes to the 1984 Los Angeles Games, marking a new era that sees China taking part in all the following Olympic Games. Reasons behind China's choice of Games between 1980 and 1984 are discussed. Furthermore, whether China participated in certain Olympic Games, it has demonstrated its desire to gain political advance through participation and non-participation.