Soon after its birth in Paris in 1894, the International Olympic Committee wrote a letter to the Chinese government under the Qing court, asking it to send athlete to the First Olympic Games to be held in Athens in 1896. For unknown reasons the government made no response. China was not represented at the first nine Olympic Games. (The Sixth was not held because of the First World War.) However, this does not mean that China had no relations with the IOC during all this period.
In 1920 the IOC recognized the Far Eastern Championship Games and the Far Eastern Amateur Athletic Federation, the first regional international sports organization to enter relations with the IOC. As an active member of the Federation, China participated in the 10 Far Eastern Championship Games held during the period of 1913-34. Following the September 18 Incident in 1931, the Japanese militarists insisted that their puppet government in Manchuria be admitted into the Federation, which was strongly opposed by the Chinese people. Thus, an end was put to the Games.
In 1922, Wang Zhengting, chancellor of China University and Sponsor of the Far Eastern Championship Games, was elected a member of the IOC. In 1928 China sent an observer to the Ninth Olympic Games in Amsterdam. In 1931 the All-China Athletic Association founded in 1924 was recognized by the IOC.
In the '30s and '40s, China was represented three times at the Olympic Games--- the 10th held in Los Angeles in 1932, the 11th in Berlin in 1936 and the 14th in London in 1948. (The 12th and 13th were not held because of the Second World War)
The Kuomintang government had not intended to send any athlete to the 10th Olympic Games, while the puppet government in Manchuria was going to dispatch two. It was only under popular pressure that the KMT government decided to send an athlete named Liu Changchun and his coach Song Junfu to Los Angeles. Four years later, a delegation of 140 was sent to the 11th Olympic Games. None managed to make it to the finals except Fu Baolu, who cleared 3.80m in the pole vault. China fared no better at the 12th Olympics. However, as has been pointed out by Pierre de Coubertin, the important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part. After all is said and done, China did participate in the Olympic Games and established further relations with the IOC. Following Wang Zhengting, two more Chinese, Kong Xiangxi and Dong shouyi, were elected its members in 1939 and 1947 respectively.
After the overthrow of the KMT government and the founding of the People"s Republic of China in 1949, the All-China Athletic Association was reorganized into All-China sports Federation (Chinese Olympic Committee), with its headquarters removed from Nanjing to Beijing. As a member of the IOC, China naturally had the right to participate in the 15th Olympic Games to be held in 1952 in Helsinki. However, some personages in the IOC refused to invite it. In July 1952, the All-China Sports Federation declared in a cable to the IOC that it exercised the rights of governing sports within the framework of the whole country and was a national amateur sports organization leading all the Chinese athletes, and that only this organization could represent the Chinese people to join the IOC and all the IOC-recognized international federations. This just demand won wide support of the world's public opinion, the just-minded personages in the IOC and the Finnish friends. Finally, only two days before the opening of the Helsinki Games, the IOC decided to invite athletes of the People's Republic of China to the Games. It is to be regretted, however, that the IOC also invited the sports organization in Taiwan to send athletes to take part in the Games and reserved the problem of All-China Sports Federation's seat in the IOC. But this did not obstruct the People's Republic of China from going to Helsinki.
There being little time for preparation, a 40-member delegation was organized in a hurry, consisting of a basketball team, a football team and a swimmer named Wu Chuanyu who had come near international standard. On the eve of its departure for Helsinki, Premier Zhou Enlai received its leading members at midnight, pointing out that the significance of their trip lay not in the result of competition, but in the opportunity they had won for participation. "It'll be a victory once our five-starred red national flag is hoisted at the Games," he said.
For the first time in the Olympic history, the national flag of the People's Republic of China was hoisted at the Olympic Village on July 19 when the Chinese delegation arrived in Helsinki, when most of the preliminaries had finished. Only Wu was in time for a 100m backstroke heat in which he set a national record. The Chinese players missed the chance to compete and had some friendly matches with the host teams. Many get-togethers were held with athletes from Africa, Oceania and other continents, who expressed friendly feelings and sympathy for the Chinese athletes.