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10th-15th Olympic Summer Games: 1936-1952

2004-03-30 13:24:00 COC Website

China' participation in the 10th Olympic Games in 1932, though by only one athlete, aroused worldwide attention as had not been expected by the Chinese government. At the same time, it felt quite uneasy about the public opinion that the largest country should be represented by such a tiny number of participants. In 1935, or one year before the 11th Olympics, it appropriated nearly 200,000 yuan for preparations, choosing the best athletes and opening up a number of training classes. A delegation was organized, consisting of 69 competitors for athletics, swimming, basketball, football, weightlifting, boxing and cycling; 39 observers and nine demonstrators of the traditional Chinese martial art of wushu. In addition, it was accompanied by 150 journalists and visitors to Berlin at their own expenses.  

After the Olympics, the wushu demonstrators went to Denmark, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Austria and Italy, where they were warmly received as envoys of the Chinese people and highly acclaimed for their performances with bare hands or such ancient weapons as swords, cudgels and spears. Some of the performers later became well-known wushu masters, professors or leaders of national organizations, including Zheng Huaixian, the late president of the Chinese Wushu Association, and 89-year-old Prof. Zhang Wenguang at Beijing Physical Education University.

The observers, who were phys.ed. teachers and scholars, spent six weeks or so in Europe visiting sports facilities, studying sports management and physical training in schools and colleges — a study tour that proved very useful for their work after their return home.

As far as the Olympic competition was concerned, Chinese athletes failed to collect a single medal. All were eliminated in the preliminaries except Fu Baolu in the pole vault, holder of the then national record of 4.015m, whose best performance fell below 4m at the Berlin Olympics, and who joined the air force soon after his return home and was killed during the War of Resistance Against Japan. The Chinese made an even poorer showing in other events, finishing the marathon race, for instance, one hour behind the winner. "We were a far cry from many countries in the results and athletic abilities," wrote the Chinese Delegation in its report. "We were ridiculed as having brought back nothing but a 'duck's egg'."

No Olympic Games were held for the 12th and 13th Olympiads because of the Second World War. In 1947, China started preparations for the 14th Olympic Games slated for the next year. Selective trials and intensive training were held for 10000m, 400m and marathon races, 400m hurdles, 100m freestyle swimming, 1000m cycling, basketball and football, in the hope of tallying some points.

Nevertheless, the Kuomintang government was only lukewarm about participation in the Olympics, allotting no more than US$25,000 for it, with a deficit of US$70,000-80,000 to be collected by the delegation itself, which was thus placed in an awkward position.

On the other hand, the Chinese people and athletes in particular displayed much enthusiasm for the Olympics. Part of the needed funds were raised at home. To make up the balance, the basketball and football teams played 15 and 32 matches respectively to collect money from the gate during a four-month tour to Hong Kong, Saigon, Manila, Bangkok, Singapore, Rangoon and Calcutta, before they arrived in London in late July - just in time for the Olympic Games. To cut down expenses, the delegation brought the needed food with it, amounting to four tons for 48 persons.

The results in competitions were quite disappointing - without a single point to the delegation's credit. To do justice to the athletes, they had done their utmost. Take Lou Wen'ao for instance. He was a deaf-mute and took part in the 10000m and marathon races, during which he developed blisters all over his feet wearing a pair of ordinary shoes made of rubber soles and cloth uppers. The Chinese basketball team placed 18th among the 23 participating squads. The Chinese cyclist, He Haohua, was second in the race but fell from his bike near the finish to dash his hopes for a silver.

What was most embarrassing for the Chinese delegation was that it had to borrow money all the way back home. 

For all their poor athletic performances and hardships they met with, the Chinese Olympians would never forget the British people's goodwill and friendship towards them - as expressed in the children's hunt for their autographs, the Londoners' invitations to their homes, and the royal reception at Buckingham Palace - all betokening an international understanding so important for the establishment of a peaceful society after the Second World War, after the Olympics had stopped for 12 years. 

A tremendous change took place in China after the 1948 Olympics. With the overthrow of the Kuomintang government, which was rotten to the core, the People's Republic of China was established in the next year. Paying great attention to the people's health and the cause of sport, the new regime adopted a positive attitude toward the global Olympic Movement. The Chinese Olympic Committee decided to take part in the 15th Olympic Games to be held in Helsinki in 1952. A problem arose when some of the COC members who had fled to Taiwan with the Kuomintang authorities claimed to the International Olympic Committee that they, rather than the COC, should represent China at the Olympic Games. The IOC decided not to invite either side of the Taiwan Strait, to the disapproval of both.

On July 17, just two days before the opening of the Games, the IOC passed by vote a resolution to invite the COC to the Olympics as China's sole representative. The COC received the resolution and a cable of invitation from the Organizing Committee on July 18. There being no jet air transportation, it was impossible to fly the Chinese delegation from Beijing to Helsinki for the opening ceremony. To go or not to go? That was the question.The COC decided to go. Although delayed for formal competitions, the Chinese athletes arrived at the Olympic Village and hoisted their red five-starred national flag for the first time in the Olympic history, which, as pointed out by Premier Zhou Enlai, was a great victory in itself.

In 1954, at its 49th session in Athens, the IOC adopted a resolution on the official recognition of the COC and decided to invite China to take part in the 16th Olympic Games to be held in Melbourne in 1956. The COC made preparations and organized a delegation for the occasion.

It follows from this that the problem of China's representation had been solved. But something quite out of expectation happened. In the list of IOC members there appeared two Chinese NOCs. Some people in the IOC had, regardless of the resolution passed at the 49th session, had placed Taiwan in the list in violation of the Olympic Charter, an action that could not be tolerated by the Chinese athletes and people in general. This was a question of principle. The Chinese delegation, which was concentrated in Guangzhou and ready to depart for Melbourne, could not but lodge a protest and withdraw from the Olympics. There should not appear two Chinas in the world, and consequently, nor should there appear two Chinese NOCs, nor two Chinese delegations at the Olympic Games.

Thus China was barred from the 16th Olympics and also from the following five editions. This aroused universal dissatisfaction, for it is known to all that there is only one China in the world, and that is the People's Republic of China, while Taiwan is part of its territory. This is a fact accepted by the then 119 members of the United Nations. Why should China be excluded from the IOC in violation of the Olympic Charter? How could the Olympics be called a real global sports meet at a real world level without the participation of such a large country as China - a country that has made steady progress in sports, breaking world records on more than 200 occasions by the end of 1979? As a matter of course, this problem had set many personages in the IOC thinking seriously.

As a result, at a meeting held in Nagoya in 1979, the IOC Executive Board passed a resolution on the reinstatement of China in the IOC, while the Olympic committee in Taiwan can only use the name of "Chinese Taipei Olympic committee" with its flag, anthem and emblem different from the original ones. Thus, the COC was enabled to take part in the Olympics as China's representative. It immediately decided to participate in the 13th Winter Olympic Games to be held in Lake Placid, USA in February 1980 and the 22nd Olympic Games to be held in Moscow in August of the same year.

China sent 28 athletes to the United States - for the first time to any Winter Olympics - to compete in speed skating, figure skating, biathlon, and cross-country and alpine skiing. It was also represented at the following three Winter Olympics. At the 15th, the Chinese woman skater Li Yan set a new world record in both the 1000m and 1500m short-track demonstration races and earned a gold medal for the 1000m and a bronze medal for both the 500m and 1500m events. At the 16th Winter Olympics, Ye Qiaobo placed second in both the women's 500m and 1000m events, while Li Yan did the same in the 500m short-track race.

As for the 22nd Olympic Games, China made full preparations for competition in 19 of the 21 sports, indicating the great importance it attached to the occasion after an absence of 28 years from the Olympic Games since Helsinki. Owing to the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan, however, the COC and Chinese athletes, together with their counterparts in many other countries, boycotted the Moscow Olympics in their struggle against hegemony and in defence of the Olympic principles.

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