‘And the winner is… Sydney!” (and Beijing): Olympic engagement as public diplomacy’

Horton, Peter A. (2008) ‘And the winner is… Sydney!” (and Beijing): Olympic engagement as public diplomacy’. In: Beijing Forum 2008: Asia Research Network (5), pp. 348-370. From: Beijing Forum 2008, 7-9 November 2008, Beijing, China.

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Abstract

Summer Olympic Games have been described as being the biggest social events in the history of humankind. They are not only the most significant of all global mega-sporting events but they are also are very powerful political, economic, environmental and cultural global forces. Hosting an Olympic Games is a much sought-after prize for the cities that seek the role; it is both, an honour and a reward. Honour, as it is indicative of the chosen city’s global status and a reward, because the financial, cultural, diplomatic and infrastructural advances that are associated with being a ‘host city’ can be immense. Even so, it must be remembered that sport is the primary purpose and function of all Olympic festivals. In 1993 in a very close race between Sydney and Beijing, Sydney was chosen by the IOC delegates as the host city for the 2000 Olympics. Hailed as the ‘best ever Olympics’ the Sydney Games set new standards for not only athletic achievement but also in the areas of culture, environment, administration, organization, facility design, event management, security, ticketing, transport, volunteer activity, media and most significantly in terms of the mood that pervaded the host city and the whole of Australia throughout the Games. As a tourist event it was unrivalled. The organizers of Beijing’s bid for the 2008 Games immediately embraced the Sydney model to drive their efforts and once successful again turned to their Asian Pacific trading partner to help them prepare for Beijing 2008. Australian sporting, commercial, industrial and diplomatic agencies gleefully accepted the invitation. This paper discusses the nature, scope and impact of the ‘Olympic’ engagement between Australia and China leading to the Beijing Olympic Games and will analyse the ramification of this multifaceted relationship. The Beijing Games showcased China’s increasingly open economy and the level of its readiness to assume it role as a global superpower and this paper will illustrate how, for Australia, the 2008 Olympics provided and will continue to provide profitable diplomatic and trading opportunities to further enhance the existing political and economic partnerships with China. This paper will demonstrate how Australia, although being China’s major supporter in its efforts to host a successful Olympic Games, still had to overcome an element of ambivalence as it supported China in its ambitions. Australian Olympic officials and athletes, diplomats and politicians at all levels had to pragmatically negotiate a series of major human rights, environmental and governance issues as it engaged in its role as China’s leading supporter ahead of and during the Beijing Games. Many calls were heard for Australia to boycott the Beijing Olympics but little support emerged. The paper will conclude with a discussion of how and why Australia maintained its positive position and if this effort was diplomatically, economically and morally worthwhile. Also, it asks whether or not the Beijing Olympic Games have furthered China’s ambition to establish its legitimacy as a global power and, if we are any closer to achieving the hope of “One World, One Dream?”

Item ID: 5589
Item Type: Conference Item (Refereed Research Paper - E1)
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ISSN: 1738-625X
Date Deposited: 23 Nov 2009 23:52
FoR Codes: 13 EDUCATION > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130399 Specialist Studies in Education not elsewhere classified @ 70%
13 EDUCATION > 1399 Other Education > 139999 Education not elsewhere classified @ 30%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970121 Expanding Knowledge in History and Archaeology @ 60%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9599 Other Cultural Understanding > 959999 Cultural Understanding not elsewhere classified @ 40%
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