Susan Brownell on Beijing’s goals for the Games

Posted in 2008 Olympics at 11:40 am by Nicole

One of my favorite China hands, Professor Susan Brownell – quite possibly the most knowledgeable scholar out there on China’s sports culture and legacy – presented a paper last week at the University of Southern California on Beijing’s goals for the 2008 Olympics. Reproduced in part at the China Beat blog, she argues that there was no specific plan to use the Olympics as a public-relations tool for China to improve relations with the outside world; rather, it was Beijing’s goal to strengthen the confidence of its own people. The Telegraph (UK) quotes Brownell’s work in a piece titled “China didn’t care what you thought of the Beijing Olympics,” but having read the portion of Brownell’s paper that is available online, that feels like a harsher-than-necessary sound bite. In so many ways, China is just different than what many in the West expect it to be – a cultural difference that will keep China scholars busy for a long time to come. In any case, having been a witness to the 2008 Games myself, I can say that Brownell appears to hit the nail on the head, because it did feel after a while as though the Games were being put on for the benefit of China’s internal needs, not a need to look good to the rest of the world. Let the debates on that subject begin…

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