The earliest involvement between China and the Olympics dates back to 1894 when Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern event, and the then Greek prince issued an invitation to Qing Dynasty rulers through the French Embassy in China. They asked them to send athletes to the first Modern Olympiad, to be held in Athens in 1896, but the Qing government didn't reply due to their unfamiliarity with sports events.
In 1904, some Chinese newspapers reported stories about the third Olympics, which were held in St Louis in the United States.
In 1906, a domestic magazine introduced the history of the Olympic movement to readers.
On October 24, 1907, the renowned educationist Zhang Boling delivered a speech on the Olympics after a sports meet in Tianjin. He said China should learn from European countries that sent their athletes to compete in the Olympics, regardless of the results.
After the fourth Olympiad concluded in London in 1908, Tianjin Youth magazine covered the history of the events and suggested that China should hold its own version. Some activists showed slides from the London Olympics and gave speeches on it.
Between October 18 and 24, 1910, the first Chinese national sports meet was held in Nanjing as part of the country's effort to participate in and host the Olympics at an early date.
The Far Eastern Championship Games, originally named the Far Eastern Olympics, was launched in 1913. As one of the founders, China participated in all ten Far Eastern Championship Games held from 1913 to 1934.
In 1915, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recognized the games and invited China to join in the next Olympics and to attend IOC meetings.
In 1922, Wang Zhengyan, chancellor of China University and sponsor of the Far Eastern Championship Games, was selected to be the first Chinese IOC member.
In August 1924, the All-China Athletic Association was established as the first national sports organization. Later, China sent three athletes to participate in non-competition tennis events at the eighth Olympics in Paris.
Four years later, China named Song Hairu as its observer at the Ninth Olympics in Amsterdam instead of sending any athletes.
The IOC recognized the All-China Athletic Association in 1931 and China formally went onto the Olympic stage.
In 1932, the Kuomintang government intended to send Shen Siliang, secretary-general of the All-China Athletic Association, to visit the tenth Olympics in Los Angeles. The puppet government in Manchuria, supported by the Japanese, wanted to dispatch two athletes, Liu Changchun and Yu Xiwei, instead but Liu refused to represent them. The Kuomintang government finally sent a six-member delegation, including team leader Shen, coach Song Junfu and both Yu and Liu, who ranked fifth and sixth after the first rounds of the men's 100m and 200m races. Despite his failure in the qualifiers, Liu became China's first Olympic athlete.
In 1936, a 139-member delegation was sent to the 11th Olympic Games in Berlin, consisting of 69 competitors for athletics, swimming, basketball, football, weightlifting, boxing and cycling, 34 observers and 11 demonstrators of traditional martial arts. None managed to make it to the finals except Fu Baolu, who finished with 3.80m in the pole vault. After the Olympics, the martial arts demonstrators toured Denmark, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Austria and Italy, where they were warmly received and highly acclaimed for their performances.
In 1939, Kong Xiangxi was selected as the second IOC member for China.
After China won the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression in 1945, Wang Zhengyan, Yuan Dunli, Dong Shouyi, together with other Chinese gymnasts, suggested China host the 15th Olympics in 1952.
In 1947, Dong Shouyi was appointed the third Chinese IOC member.
The 12th and 13th Olympiads had not been held due to the Second World War, but for the 14th Olympics in London in 1948, China dispatched a 52-member delegation, consisting of 33 contenders for track and field, swimming, football, basketball, as well as cycling events. The results were disappointing, as all were eliminated in the preliminary contests. What was more, the delegation had to borrow money to make it back home.
After the overthrow of the Kuomintang government and the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the All-China Athletic Association was reorganized into the All-China Sports Federation (Chinese Olympic Committee), and its headquarters moved from Nanjing to Beijing.
In February 1952, the federation expressed its willingness to the IOC to take part in the 15th Olympic Games in Helsinki. But an obstacle appeared when some Olympic committee members who had fled to the island of Taiwan with the Kuomintang claimed that they should represent China at the Olympics. On July 17, just two days before the opening of the games, the IOC passed a resolution inviting athletes from the People's Republic of China. Of them, only Wu Chuanyu got passed the qualifiers with a time of 1min 12.3s in the men's 100m-backstroke. The Chinese football and basketball teams played friendly games with their Finish counterparts.
In May 1954, the IOC recognized the All-China Sports Federation as the Chinese Olympic Committee (COC) with 23 votes for and 21 against at its 50th session in Athens.
In June 1955, Rong Gaotang, the then vice president and secretary-general of the COC, stated at the Third Meeting between the IOC's Executive Board and national Olympic committees that the inclusion of a Taiwan sports organization in the IOC was illegal and that they should withdraw its recognition. However, the then IOC President Avery Brundage turned down the demand, saying that sport has nothing to do with politics.
In 1956, some senior IOC officials continued to raise the "Two Chinas" problem and insisted that Taiwan solely participate in the 16th Olympics in Melbourne. The COC lodged a strong protest with the IOC and withdrew from the games.
On August 19, 1958, the All-China Sports Federation announced a stop to all relations with the IOC. The COC and the sports associations affiliated to it withdrew from 15 international organizations one after another during June-August. The then IOC member Dong Shouyi also resigned.
The IOC then recognized a sports organization in Taiwan as a national Olympic Committee and selected its local official Xu Heng as an IOC member in 1970.
During this period, athletes from Taiwan Province participated in five summer Olympic Games, of whom Yang Chuanguang became the first Chinese Olympic medal-winner when he grabbed the runner-up in the men's decathlon events at the Rome Olympics in 1960.
Ji Zheng was the first Chinese woman to get a medal after ranking third in the women's 80m hurdles at the Mexico Olympics in 1968.
In 1973, the Chinese Olympic Committee became a member of the Asian Olympic Council.
With China's increasing recognition in the world, in 1979 the Chinese Olympic Committee supported suggestions to the IOC to reinstate the country's rightful status.
In October 1979, at a meeting held in Nagoya, the IOC Executive Board passed a resolution on the problem of China's representation, confirming the COC as the representative of the Olympic Movement in the whole of China using the national flag and national anthem of the People's Republic of China, while the Olympic committee in Taiwan area, as one of China's local organizations, could only use the name of "Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee" with its flag, anthem and emblem different from the original ones pending the IOC's approval. The resolution was passed by the IOC members with a vote of 62 for, 17 against and 2 abstentions.
In 1980, China took part at the Lake Placid Winter Olympic Games, sending 28 athletes to compete in a total of 18 events, such as speed skating, figure skating, and cross-country skiing. Wang Guizhen finished 18th in the alpine skiing women's slalom – China's best results at the games.
China lodged a protest with the former Soviet Union for its invasion to Afghanistan and thus did not participate in the 22nd summer Olympics in Moscow.
In 1981, He Zhenliang was elected IOC member, and then a member of the IOC Executive Board in 1985 and Vice President for 1989-1993.
The Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee became a member of the Asian Olympic Council in 1982.
When the 23rd Olympics were held in Los Angeles in 1984, China sent a delegation of 353 members consisting of 224 athletes for gymnastics and another 15 events. China's first gold medal at the L.A. Games was won by Xu Haifeng, a sharpshooter who also became the first Chinese to win such an honor in Olympic history. Wu Xiaoxuan won the title in standard small-bore rifle shooting, becoming the first Chinese woman to win an Olympic gold. Gymnastic star Li Ning won three gold medals, two silver medals and one bronze. Altogether, Chinese athletes took 15 gold, eight silver and nine bronze medals, standing fourth in the gold medals tally. The Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee sent a 67-member delegation, consisting of 57 athletes, and won 2 bronzes. It was the first time China and Chinese Taipei both attended the Olympics since 1948.
In 1988, at the 24th Olympics held in Seoul, 299 Chinese athletes of the 445-member delegation competed in a total of 21 events and accumulated five golds, 11 silvers and 12 bronzes, dropping seven places to 11th place in the golds tally. Gymnast Lou Yun for the second time took the gold of the men's vault, becoming the first Chinese to win two golds in a row. In the same year, Wu Jingguo, member of Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee, became an IOC member.
During 1991 and 2001, Beijing made two Olympic bids, one for 2000 and the other for 2008. In its first bid it lost to Sydney by a narrow margin of two votes, but in the second it beat another nine cities to win the right to host the 29th Olympic Summer Games in 2008, thanks to its great potential for economic growth and the remarkable achievements in sport made by China over the previous decade.
At the 25th Olympics held in Barcelona in 1992, the 380-member Chinese delegation, including 251 sportspeople, collected 16 golds, 22 silvers and 16 bronzes to place fourth in gold medal standings behind the Commonwealth of Independent States, the United States and Germany. Swimmer Lin Li won the women's 200m individual medley with 2'11''65 and became the first Chinese to break the world record. Gao Min pocketed the women's 3m springboard gold again after the Seoul Olympics, becoming the first Chinese woman to consecutively win golds at two Olympics.
At the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, China sent a delegation of 495 members consisting of 309 athletes for 22 out of the 26 events and maintained its fourth place with 16 golds, 22 silvers and 12 bronzes, behind only the United States, Russia and Germany. Lee Lai-shan, a women's sailing athlete, won Hong Kong's first Olympic gold in Atlanta 1996, one year before Hong Kong returned to the motherland.
Also in 1996, Lu Shengrong, the then president of the International Badminton Federation, became the first Chinese woman to hold the post of IOC member.
At the 2000 Sydney Olympics, China sent a 311-athlete delegation and won an unprecedented haul of 28 golds, 16 silvers and 15 bronze medals. For the first time, China clinched a place in the top three, both in its gold medal tally and in overall medal achievement.
On September 14, 2000, Yu Zaiqing, Vice President of the COC, was elected as IOC member, the seventh Chinese in history. Yu was appointed a member of the IOC Executive Board in August 2004.
At the 19th Olympic Winter Games held in Salt Lake City in 2002, short-track speed skater Yang Yang (A) beat a strong field to win both the women's 500m and 1000m races.
In 2004, China took part in the Athens Games with a strong delegation, with 407 athletes participating in 26 out of the 28 sports listed on the games program, except for baseball and equestrianism. With a historic high of 32 gold in 13 sports and 63 medals in all, China broke its record Olympic medal haul and exceeded Russia to rank second in the gold medal tally, following the United States, and third in the overall medal tally. Chinese Taipei won 2 golds at the Athens: Chen Shih Hsin in women's taekwondo 49kg, and Chu Mu Yen in men's 58kg taekwondo.
In 2008 for the Beijing Games, the Chinese delegation had an average age of 24.4 and is composed of 639 athletes participating in 28 sports, 38 disciplines and 262 events. During the two-week competitions, the Chinese delegation displayed impressive skills in athletic technique. By scoring the best ever result at the Games with 51 gold, 21 silver and 28 bronze medals, China achieved a major historic breakthrough and made significant contributions to the hosting of a high-standard and unique Olympic Games in Beijing.
To date, China has participated in seven summer Olympics since its reinstatement in the IOC in 1979, winning a total of 163 golds. Meanwhile, Chinese athletes competed in seven winter Olympics and collected 2 gold, 12 silver and 8 bronze medals.