China pursues gold in global image by hosting Olympics

China pursues gold in global image by hosting Olympics

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SHANGHAI: China has warned almost daily not to “politicize” this week’s Beijing Olympics, but for its rulers, hosting the Games means much more than sports and medal counts.

Even in the shadow of the pandemic, Western accusations of genocide against the Muslim minority and a diplomatic boycott, hosting the Olympics is about the global prestige of China and its ruling Communist Party, analysts say.

Experts say Beijing’s 2022 difficulties could even increase the country’s stockpiles. Hosting so-called “safe and exciting” Olympics during a pandemic would reinforce China’s argument that its relative success in containing the coronavirus demonstrates the superiority of its top-down approach to governance.

China’s frequent criticisms about Western nations politicising sport is “at the very least ironic, if not completely hypocritical”, said Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at SOAS University of London.

“The fact they are using the Olympic Games as a major political event to project China’s international image — which is a separate political act — is completely ignored.”

China has not always insisted on separating sport and politics.

After the newly founded People’s Republic of China competed in the 1952 Helsinki Games, it then sat out the next quarter century, initially in protest against the presence of athletes from political rival Taiwan, although domestic upheaval under Mao Zedong was also a major factor.

China returned at Lake Placid in 1980, but later that year it joined dozens of countries that skipped the Moscow Summer Olympics after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.

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