mandag 22. februar 2021

The 2008 Olympics was a soft power victory for Beijing. A successful Games in 2022 could validate its authoritarian system

As the sound of fireworks rang out over Beijing to mark the close of the 2008 Summer Olympics, China's leaders could have been forgiven for breathing a sigh of relief. Remembered today as an event in which record-breaking sporting achievements were matched only by the spectacular pageantry and organization of the Games, the success of the Beijing Olympics was no sure thing.

China had never hosted the Olympics before, and in the run-up to the 2008 Games -- held under the slogan "One World, One Dream" -- there were calls for a boycott over the country's human rights records, concerns for how Beijing's notorious smog might affect the health of athletes, and angry pro-Tibet protests along much of the Olympic Torch relay.

At home, Chinese organizers and athletes faced immense pressure to pull off not just sporting success, but to produce a monument to national pride, a soft-power showcase that would cement China's place as an emerging global superpower.