The Chinese government has said over and over in the last few months that the Beijing Olympics should not be politicized. The uproar over Tibet has no place in the Games, officials insist. Nor do humanitarian concerns over Sudan's Darfur region belong in the Olympic spotlight. As for human rights in China itself, well, that's an internal matter. Yet, politics have long been at the heart of China's relations with the modern Olympic movement, as Xu Guoqi, an associate professor at Kalamazoo College, shows in his illuminating history, Olympic Dreams.
The Washington Post
In this history of sports in China over the past century, Xu (history, Kalamzaoo Coll.) accents the cultural intertwining of athletics and politics as the country continually increases its emphasis on the former to enhance its stature in the world. The scope of this book-and China's expanding sports focus-coincides with the modern Olympic movement. Even side trips to, e.g., the "Ping Pong Diplomacy" between China and the United States in the 1970s, are ultimately related to the international competition at the Olympics. Xu focuses on the underlying issue of the rise of Communist China and the marginalization of Taiwan in international competitions, concluding with a look ahead to the potential dangers and opportunities that the 2008 Beijing Olympics hold for China. The study is thorough and detailed, examining archival U.S. and Chinese government memos, communications, and policies as well as interactions with the International Olympic Committee. The writing is a bit dry, but the book offers essential research and analysis on a key and timely topic in world sport and politics. Recommended for academic libraries and for public libraries where demand warrants.
Thoroughly researched and painstakingly footnoted.
Far Eastern Economic Review
The 2008 Beijing games, like other sporting events in the past, will be a window into Chinese national pride and global ambitions. Even though Olympic Dreams was written before the March Tibet riots and the subsequent outbursts of Chinese nationalism, Mr. Xu’s general argument still stands, and is even somewhat prescient...Mr. Xu has a clear and readable writing style, and his analysis is punctuated with lively examples...Beijing’s politicization of sports clearly has some uniquely Chinese characteristics. But that is not necessarily the main lesson of this book. Examples of similar phenomena—from Hungary to Argentina—remind that sports and politics are often two sides of the same coin. The grander the event, the more political the stakes.
Chronicle of Higher Education
Xu Guoqi's masterful survey of China's hundred-year tryst with the Olympics, Olympic Dreams: China and Sports, 1895-2008, reminds the reader that sports have been central to the construction of the Chinese nation and its links with the rest of the world...Xu shows how politicians have micromanaged every aspect of China's sporting progress.
This highly readable book traces the history of China's sporting ambition, from an obscure lecture in Tientsin in 1908 to the "high-quality Olympics with Chinese characteristics"...It is a useful introduction to an awkward topic that simply won't go away.
Probably no Olympic Games has been so deeply tied to a political project as Beijing's. The links between politics in China and the games are well told in Olympic Dreams by the historian, Xu Guoqi, who describes how for more than a century the Olympics has been wrapped up in Chinese ideas about national revival and international prestige.
The entire history of [China's] involvement with the Olympics, and international sport in general, has been overtly political, as Xu Guoqi ably demonstrates in Olympic Dreams.
South China Morning Post
[An] accomplished study of China and sport...Where Olympic Dreams scores highest is in describing and explaining the importance of the Olympic Games to China's self-esteem and its sense of belonging on the international stage, and how successive leaders have focused on the powerful political platform the event provides.
Times Higher Education Supplement
A thoughtful and highly informative book that all interested in the Beijing Olympics will find rewarding, and it should be required reading for journalists covering the 2008 Games.
Santa Barbara News-Press
Thoroughly researched and lucidly articulated, Mr. Xu‘s book provides a unique perspective on China through the history of sports. Just as baseball and football define the heart and mind of America, China’s promotion of various sports as national games also speaks to the cultural psyche of a country seeking recognition in the global political arena.
What distinguishes this...from so many of the recent flood of books on China, is its emphasis on the political and national role of sport in the Chinese ascendancy...The Olympics are emblematic of the "new" China but, interestingly, [Xu] speculates on whether the long-held dream of the Communist party to host the Olympics may well spell the beginning of its end.