In the wake of political decisions by Western heads of state to attend (U.S. President Bush and French President Sarkozy) or not attend (British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and German Chancellor Angela Merkel) the opening ceremony in Beijing next month, the New York Times‘s Lynn Zinser reminds us of a political statement that China made to send its team to the Olympics for the first time, twenty-four years ago.
On May 8, 1984, the Soviet Union announced that they were leading a boycott of the Games in Los Angeles, California. The Soviets said the boycott would keep 100 countries away from the ’84 Games, and China was at the top of the list. After four days of deliberations with a U.S. envoy, China decided to defy the Soviet Union-led boycott and attend the Games, their first-ever. Peter Ueberroth, the leader of the Los Angeles organizing committee in 1984, believes to this day that China’s decision to come “saved the Olympics.” Writes Zinser:
As the world prepares for the Beijing Games in August, that moment is all but lost in the history of the Olympics, when the winds shifted and carried the Games away from a political bludgeon in the cold war to the combination of athletic and commercial success they have become since. Ueberroth, now 70 and the chairman of the United States Olympic Committee, will lead the American team into China with a deep sense of gratitude.
Agnes Mura, a U.S. envoy sent to Romania, “said she would watch the Beijing Games with a keen understanding of their significance.” As host of this year’s Olympic Games, China has come full circle.
Photo by makunmakun.