The Beijing Olympiad's achievement and legacy in global perspective


By Paul Close
It is widely recognised and broadly agreed that the clearest example of a mega-event, sporting or otherwise, is provided by the modern Olympic Games, with another sporting spectacle, the FIFA World Cup coming in second. There is nothing like the same consensus over what else, if anything, qualifies as a mega-event, how to identify mega-events, or how to basically characterise, distinguish and define ‘mega-event’.


It is widely recognised and broadly agreed that the clearest example of a mega-event, sporting or otherwise, is provided by the modern Olympic Games, with another sporting spectacle, the FIFA World Cup [1] coming in second. There is nothing like the same consensus over what else, if anything, qualifies as a mega-event, how to identify mega-events, or how to basically characterise, distinguish and define ‘mega-event’.

Still, the agreement which does exist provides a benchmark for categorising all events as ‘mega’ or otherwise, for deciding on the basic, or defining, characteristics of mega-events, and so for conceptualising ‘mega-event’ in general, or abstract, terms. Olympic Games are an appropriate starting point for coming up with the most useful notion of ‘mega-event’ for sociological, analytical and explanatory purposes. While, of course, there cannot be a correct definition of ‘mega-event’ (just as there cannot be a correct definition of anything), there may be a most useful one. There may be a most helpful, beneficial and productive way of defining ‘mega-event’ for the purpose of distinguishing and identifying mega-events, the first step in the process of studying, analysing and making sense of any particular example and of the phenomenon in general.

The Globalisational Approach
Well before the start of the twenty-first century, Olympic Games were mega-events, or more precisely mega-social events. As with social events broadly speaking, Olympic Games display three principal, or fundamental, dimensions: the economic, the political and the cultural; and as befits an event which warrants the label ‘mega’, Olympic Games have assumed for several decades a big, great, or abnormally large, economic, political and cultural presence [2]. What is more, and crucially, Olympic Games have not only been big, but also assumed the mantle of the biggest, perhaps the biggest possible [3], and perhaps even the biggest conceivable of all social events anywhere in the world.

Olympic Games as mega-events will display certain basic, defining characteristics which they share with not only all other mega-events, but also all other mega-social phenomena, such as mega-cities, the significance of which has been indicated in one study as follows:


This paper examines the transformation of urban space in the peri-urban areas of Latin American mega-cities, further exacerbating the multi-jurisdictional political divisions that cover a single urban entity […]. It argues that previous approaches have failed to recognize that globally and nationally-derived economic development processes are often vested in these meta-urban peripheries […]. Much of the contemporary vibrancy and dynamics of Mexico City’s metropolitan development are occurring in ‘hot-spots’ in the extended periphery, which, to date, have rarely been considered an integral part of the mega-city. Yet these areas are also some of the principal loci of contemporary globalization processes. [4]

According to this, mega-cities, and especially ‘hot-spots’ within the extended periphery of them, are some of the principal loci of globalisation processes.

Globalisation has been defined, of course, in many ways, some of the most cited and influential of which lend themselves, it seems to me, to the following distillation:


Globalization is the set of processes, whereby – facilitated by enhanced global flows of such things as industry, investment, individuals and information (Ohmae, 1990, 1995) – the world is becoming structurally (economically and politically) more integrated (see Baylis and Smith, 2004) and culturally (ideationally) more homogenized (cf. Berger and Huntington, 2002). The world is becoming, in other words, a ‘borderless’ (Ohmae, 1990), ‘single place’ (Robertson, 1992; Scholte, 2000). [5]

For me, globalisation is the process, or set of processes, through which the world is becoming a single global social (economic, political and cultural) place, or space [6].

The origins of globalisation lie in the West (or, more specifically, in Europe); the evolving globalised world is highly Westernised around (economic) market capitalism, (political) liberal democracy, and (cultural) individualism [7]; and the resulting single global social space is likely to be dominated by these features and their affiliated Western traits, albeit not necessarily in an unqualified manner:


Ideationally, globalization is the vehicle whereby the ‘Western cultural account’ [Axford, 1995; Meyer et al., 1987] is being globally diffused, if somewhat unevenly and erratically. Western cultural forms, expressions and items are being adopted, albeit at different speeds, more or less everywhere including throughout East Asia […]. The growing popularity of football (otherwise known as soccer) in East Asia matches what is occurring elsewhere in the world, and provides a highly instructive example of how the Western cultural account is being presented, or purveyed, to and acquired by a significant non-Western Other [. . .]. In East Asia as elsewhere, the Western cultural account is interacting with local cultures [. . .]. The results are syntheses of the global and the local [. . .]. [8]

Globalisation, market capitalism, liberal democracy, the Western cultural account, individualism and much else associated with the West, and especially with what some regard as continuing Western hegemony, imperialism and decadence (including such Western offerings as ‘excessive individualism’, consumerism, ‘the commodification of everything’, the Olympic Games, the Olympic Movement, and Olympism) are enjoying far from completely smooth, wholly uniform and universally endearing progress.

While globalisation is probably inevitable and unstoppable, in the sense of a process which is leading to a single global social space, the content of globalisation is unsettled, as is therefore the economic, political and cultural character of the eventual single global social space. Economic globalisation appears to be proceeding at a faster rate than its political and cultural counterparts, notwithstanding any setbacks due to the global financial crisis which sprung up in 2008 and how globalisation, overall or in part, is facing widespread resentment, rejection and resistance. Globalisation is being constantly impeded and amended, not least because of the shifting, or declining, economic, political and cultural weight of theWest relative to the rest, and especially in comparison with those parts of the world centred on the BRIC Economies - those of Brazil, Russia, India and China [9].

Globalisation entails and depends upon acceptance, compliance and conformity at the local level, but the content of globalisation is in flux, and is being constantly shaped and re-shaped in interaction with the local – under the influence, impact and weight of local economics, politics and culture. Of course, not all local economics, politics and cultures have equal weight and so equal influence and impact on the content of globalisation.  None the less, the West is not the only player involved, and its relative weight after all is declining. The content of globalisation is not singularly ‘Western’, and it is likely to become less and less so. Globalisation is being modified, revised and transformed at the local level – through accommodation, adaptation and ‘localisation’, ‘global localisation’ or ‘glocalisation’ – and at the global level itself through playback, feedback or interference from the local level. This is perhaps especially applicable to East Asia, and is perhaps especially apparent in matters surrounding mega-events.

The statement above by Close and Askew about cultural globalisation, East Asia and football (the origins of which, of course, lie in the West, and more specifically in England) was made with regard to the 2002 FIFA World Cup finals, which were held in Japan and South Korea. But, it might have been made about globalisation overall, China and the Olympic Games vis-à-vis the 2008 Beijing event. It is to be expected that the distinctive ‘local’ culture, or cultures, of China will be far from simply swept aside and away by globalisation and the Western cultural account with the assistance of the Beijing Games. Instead, the ‘local’ will have made an appearance at, will have made its presence felt during, and will have imposed itself upon this sporting extravaganza; will have ensured that the Western cultural account content of globalisation is somewhat localized; and will to some extent be played back on, influencing, globalisation through the process of glocalisation.

Still, this does not detract from the view of globalisation, as alluded to by Aguilar et al. (above), as the exemplar par excellence for illustrating and identifying mega-social phenomena in particular cases and in general, of whatever type or sub-type, due to its status as the supreme manifestation of the mega-social genre and, connectedly, its association with other major examples, including such mega-events as the FIFA World Cup, such mega-organisations as FIFA and the International Association of Athletics Associations (IAAA), and mega-cities. Not only mega-cities like Mexico City, but also mega-events like Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup may act as principal loci of globalisation processes [10].

It may be that globalisation and Olympic Games as mega-social phenomena not only share certain basic, defining characteristics, but also share a close mega-social (economic, political and cultural) relationship, whereby each shapes and sustains, feeds into and feeds off the other; and whereby Olympic Games as principal loci of globalisation processes can be used to investigate and illuminate globalisation. This seems to be what John Short has in mind when he says:


The existence, extent, meaning and measurement of economic, political and cultural globalization have provided a rich and argumentative agenda for contemporary social theorising [see Short, 2001]. A discussion of the Games provides an opportunity to consider a very concrete example of globalization. The Games not only actualize some of the forces and many of the paradoxes of globalization, they also exemplify the complex intersections of cultural and political, as well as the more commonly studied, economic globalization. [11]

Globalisation, the Olympic Games and the social relationship, or interaction, between globalisation and the Games are mega-social phenomena, each of which is built around the three principal, intersecting dimensions of social life. The economic, political and cultural dimensions of Olympic Games intersect in a complex manner, especially so due to the way in which the Games ‘are embodied in at least three scales: global, national and local’, while having become since ‘their inauguration in 1896, […] increasingly global’ [12]. Short is primarily interested in how the ‘modern Summer Olympic Games are global spectacles, national campaigns and city enterprises’, at one and the same time; and thereby in how the Games are loci, or sites, of ‘connections between the global and the local’ in an era of globalisation [13]. The challenge for anyone trying to study, analyse and make sense of Olympic Games will be to clarify the complex intersections of their economic, political and cultural dimensions at and between the different levels of their embodiment, while taking into account how – reflecting the progress of globalisation – they have become and are becoming more globalised.

Guided by Short, Olympic Games as social events occur, or are embodied, not only at the local level (of the city, the nation-state or whatever), but also at the global level, and as such are sites not only from which the local interacts with the global, but also at which this interaction takes place. Olympic Games are not only local social events, they are also global social events, or spectacles, and so entail an interaction between the local and the global at the local level itself. Olympic Games facilitate the presence of the global at the local level, the interaction of the global and the local at the local level, and consequently the direct, immediate influence and impact of the global – and so of globalisation – on the local at the local level (which is not to ignore how Olympic Games may also facilitate the influence and impact of the local on the global, and so on globalisation – see below).

From this, certain questions arise. While Olympic Games are necessarily local events, are they necessarily global events? While currently, Olympic Games are global events, and under globalisation are assuming a greater and greater global presence, have they always been global events – even in this era of globalisation? And, what are the substantive, empirical and conceptual relationships between Olympic Games as global events, on the one hand, and the Games as mega-events, on the other? While currently Olympic Games are global spectacles, it does not necessarily follow that they have always qualified as such. Olympic Games may have only become global spectacles under globalisation, and perhaps only relatively recently under this process. Of course, while some Olympic Games may not qualify as ‘global’, they may none the less qualify as ‘mega’, depending on the meaning attached to the latter.

However, it seems to me that if and when Olympic Games are global spectacles, then they might usefully - for sociological, analytical and explanatory purposes - be distinguished as ‘mega-events’; while, on the other hand, if and when Olympic Games are not global spectacles, then they might usefully be regarded as falling short of ‘mega-event’ definitional requirements. That is, it may be analytically useful to define ‘mega-social event’ in global terms; to distinguish a ‘mega-social event’ as one which is (by definition) necessarily global; to identify mega-social events with reference to their global presence, spread, or reach.

This approach would be consistent both with viewing globalisation in particular as the primary example of a mega-social phenomenon, and with accounting for mega-social phenomena in general in terms of the advent and subsequent advance of globalisation. Thus, what I will call the globalisational approach to mega-social events hinges upon defining and distinguishing these occasions as global, global reach, or globalised economic, political and cultural phenomena; upon recognising the way in which they are principal loci, or sites, of globalisation, with which they have a close, intimate and mutually-shaping social relationship; and upon acknowledging the way in which they are major vehicles for the progress of globalisation, as well as (methodologically) for studying, analyzing and making sense of globalisation.

The globalisational approach to mega-events in general and to Olympic Games in particular can be compared and contrasted with the alternative approaches of a range of prominent contributors to the study of the Games, some of whom none the less have hinted at the globalisational approach. Among the most notable writers in this regard is Maurice Roche [14]. In Mega-events and Modernity, Roche ‘explores the social history and politics of “mega-events”’ from the late nineteenth century to ‘the current crisis of the Olympic movement in world politics and culture’ by examining, for instance, ‘the ways in which these kinds of events have contributed to the meaning and development of “public culture”, “cultural citizenship” and “cultural inclusion/exclusion” in society, at both the national and the international levels’ [15]. For Roche:


The concept of ‘mega-events’ refers to specially to constructed and staged international cultural and sports events such as the Olympic Games and World’s Fairs (hereafter Expos). Mega-events are short-lived collective cultural actions (‘ephemeral vistas’; […]) which nonetheless have long-lived pre- and post-event social dimensions. They are publicly perceived as having an ‘extra-ordinary’ status, among other things, by virtue of their very large scale, the time cycles in which they occur, and their impacts. [16]

While Roche’s definition of ‘mega-event’ is a useful starting point for studying the phenomenon in general and Olympic Games in particular, it presents considerable operational difficulties given the issue of measuring ‘very large’, or for that matter ‘large’, and an event’s publicly perceived extra-ordinary status. Because of this, Roche’s definition is not readily amenable to distinguishing and identifying mega-events in practice, and therefore to studying, analysing and making sense of them.

Still, Roche alludes to a way of obviating this impasse when he tells us that mega-event ‘genres have had an enduring mass popularity in modernity since their creation in the late 19th century and continue to do so in a period of globalization’. Roche draws attention to the relationship between mega-events and globalization by way of the temporal aspect of mega-events and their functional character, relevance and importance. For Roche, ‘the mega-event phenomenon’ pre-dates globalisation, while subsequently enduring under globalisation, in relation to which – along with such accompanying phenomena as ‘contemporary society’ and ‘modernity’, and in particular ‘late modernity’ – it is functional [17].

Roche argues that mega-events, due to especially, ‘but not exclusively, their temporal characteristics and what can be called their “dramaturgical” features and appeal’, constitute ‘resources for sustaining personal time structure in contemporary conditions that threaten this’. For Roche, ‘the main structures of meaning that continue to be associated with mega-events in modernity’ are functional in relation to personal and interpersonal ‘identity’. Roche claims that these structures are highly ‘relevant to the understanding of mega-events’ in that they help account for how mega-events functionally relate to, facilitate and support the ‘microsocial’ processes of ‘what phenomenological sociology refers to as the “life world” ’, on the one hand, and the ‘“macrosocial” systems’ that entail, for instance, globalisation processes, on the other. Mega-events have become functional in relation to both, and so bridge the microsocial and macrosocial spheres from within the intermediary ‘“mesosocial” sphere in contemporary society’ [18].

Roche tells us:


Mega-event genres were born in the late 19th century during a period of national building and empire building in the industrializing capitalist societies of the USA and Western Europe. This period has been [. . .] portrayed by Eric Hobsbawm [Hobsbawm and Ranger, 1992] as being characterized by a wave of ‘inventions of tradition’, and he refers to sports and expositions as leading examples of such cultural invention [. . .]. [The] enduring popularity and institutionalization of mega-event genres in national societies and in international and global society since that ‘early modern’ period derives from their social functions for elites and mass publics [. . .]. [The] periodic production of particular mega-events can be usefully understood as the production of intermediate ‘meso-sphere’ processes, involving socio-temporal ‘hubs’ and ‘exchanges’ in the economic, cultural and [other] ‘flows’ and ‘networks’ which can be said to contribute to the current development [. . .] of culture and society at the global level. It is on this basis that [. . .] mega-event movements such as the Olympic [Movement] can be usefully understood as [having] important [. . .] roles in the cultural aspects of contemporary global-level governance and institution building [see Roche, 2000, Chapter 7]. [19]

The ‘“mesosocial” sphere in contemporary society’ is ‘the intermediary sphere through which the life world, and its “microsocial” processes, is connected with “macrosocial” systems [. . .] and change’, where the ‘life world’ is the sphere of in particular ‘personal identity formation’ [20]; and the macrosocial sphere includes the activities and processes of ‘global-level governance and institution building’ as befits ‘global society’. Within the mesosocial sphere, mega-events constitute exchange hubs in the economic, political and cultural networks and flows of social life within and between the microsocial sphere and the macrosocial sphere.

However, in so far as mega-events will not be the only exchange hubs within the mesosocial sphere, the question arises of how to distinguish them from the rest. Guided by Roche, mega-events can be identified by their very large scale and publicly perceived ‘extraordinary’ status [21]. But, if only because these two indicators, or measures, are difficult to operationally interpret and apply, what about instead taking mega-events to be the largest events, or to be extraordinarily large events, or to be events that are so large as to have a global presence, spread or reach? If mega-events are defined, distinguished and identified as being those events which have global reach – have been globalised – then they will be the only mesosocial sphere events which will also have a presence within the macrosocial sphere. Mega-events defined in accordance with this approach – the globalisational approach - will link the microsocial sphere and the macrosocial sphere by being present in both, and therefore will do so directly and immediately. Moreover, mega-events will not merely accompany globalisation, but will be instead integral features of this process.

The globalisational approach to mega-events has been inferred by a few recent writers, including John Horne and Wolfram Manzenreiter in their assessment of the impact of the 2002 FIFA World Cup finals on the host countries, Japan and Korea [22], and Alan Tomlinson and Christopher Young in their account of the relationship between politics, culture and national identity, on the one hand, and what they refer to as global sports events, in particular the Olympics and the World Cup, on the other [23]. Horne and Manzenreiter focus on ‘the specific regional political economy of the 2002 World Cup; the role of sports mega-events in identity construction and promotion; and how such events are both constituted by and constitutive of globalization’ [24]. Presumably, if a mega-event is constitutive of globalisation, then it will be a global-reach event, or that is a ‘global event’ [25]. A mega-event will have simultaneously both a global and a local embodiment; and, while being a mesosocial sphere phenomenon in the first instance, a mega-event will have concurrently both a microsocial and a macrosocial presence.

However, adopting the globalisational approach to mega-events may result in some of the events that Roche takes to be mega-events being left out of the frame. It may mean excluding all Expos as well as some FIFA World Cup finals, and even some Olympic Games. It cannot be assumed that a particular event will qualify as a mega-event merely because of its very large scale and publicly perceived ‘extraordinary’ status [26]; because of aspirations for it to qualify; or because its predecessors or successors qualify. From the globalisational standpoint, the earliest Olympic Games were not mega-events in that they did not attain the required global social reach. Indeed, even when judged with reference to Roche’s operational criteria, the earliest Games will not qualify as mega-events.

Thus, for John Short, it was only at the 2000 Sydney Games, when there were athletes from 199 countries (or countries and territories [27]), and so ‘most countries of the world competed’, that the Olympic Games had become ‘truly global’ [28]. Although the first modern Olympic Games ‘was an important national event’, it ‘had limited international impact’. In the early years, the Games were not ‘a global phenomenon’, an ‘early limiting factor to the global diffusion of the Olympic Games [being] the cost and difficulty of international travel’. According to Short, it ‘took a long while for the Games to become global spectacles and the process is intertwined with [the] development of mass media, particularly television’. For Short, the ‘increasing globalization’ of the Games is closely connected with expanding television coverage. In 1960, when the Games were held in Rome, ‘CBS paid $660,000 for the right to fly film from Rome to New York, while Eurovision transmitted the first live coverage of the Games’. A total of 21 countries and territories received television coverage, a figure which increased ten-fold to 214 for the 1996 event held in Atlanta. In 2000, when they were held in Sydney, over 3.7 billion people watched the Games in 220 countries and territories. The ‘typical viewer’ watched the Games on eleven occasions, ‘resulting in a combined viewing audience estimated at 36 billion’. In 1972, when the Games were held in Munich, ‘less than 10% of the revenue of the Games came from television companies, but by Atlanta in 1996 this had increased to almost 40%’. Television coverage revenues have increased by an average of 30 per cent between events, ‘from $40 million in 1972 to $556 million in Atlanta. In a package deal, the NBC paid $3.5 billion to cover the Sydney Olympics, Athens, and Beijing as well as the winter Games of 2002 and 2006’. By the 2000 Games, television revenues constituted 55 per cent of all IOC’s total marketing revenue, with US television companies accounting for 60 per cent of all world-wide rights. In effect, the ‘Summer Games are now thoroughly corporatized, providing a huge global audience of consumers and a global opportunity to sell goods and services around the world’ [29].

The Olympic Games have acquired a huge global audience, which provides an attractive opportunity for corporations to increase their sales of goods and services and so profits. This provides in turn an incentive for corporations to invest – to become (highly influential, or indeed powerful) stakeholders – in the Games and the Olympic Movement. The huge global audience now provided by the Games has meant a boost not only for the marketing revenues of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), but also for the global economic presence, weight and clout of the Games and the Olympic Movement; while the same audience provides an attractive opportunity not only for economic players of various kinds and at various levels (such as at the nation-state level), but also for political players, perhaps especially at the nation-state level - for political regimes, governments and so on at this ‘local’ level of social life. Consequently, the Games’ huge global audience and corporate and political appeal have been rounded out by the Games’ global political presence, relevance and importance.

If the early modern Olympic Games fell short of qualifying as mega-events, then this may reflect how globalisation either had still to get underway (as inferred by Roche) or was still in its early stages. It may be argued that globalisation has a long, centuries-old history, but none the less took off and rapidly progressed on a significantly higher plane during the 1960s, which therefore mark the advent of the distinctive era of globalisation. If so, then the earliest mega-events, sporting or otherwise, will have occurred at around the same time, during the 1960s. The first mega-event of any type may have been the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, the first Games to be staged in Asia; and the second mega-event may have been the 1966 FIFA World Cup finals, which were staged in England. Moreover, it could be that Olympic Games and the FIFA World Cup finals remain the only events that can be categorised as ‘mega-events’. While Olympic Games are probably the biggest (multi-sport) mega-events, World Cup finals are undoubtedly the biggest single-sport mega-events. Indeed, there is a good chance that the 2008 Beijing Games will be the greatest mega-event of all time, perhaps not only for now, but also for a long time to come (see below).

Having said this, however, there is another contender for ‘the greatest mega-even of all time’ accolade. It is the Beijing Olympiad, depending on whether the socio-temporal [30] boundaries around the Olympics are re-drawn by looking beyond the spectacle and glare of the Games themselves to the pre-Games build-up, and perhaps in particular to the period following the close of the previous Games, given the social (economic, political and cultural) intimacy and integration entailed.

According to Roche, mega-events areshort-lived but have long-lived pre-event and post-event social dimensions [31]. But, this presumes too much, and perhaps imposes artificially exaggerated stages within what might otherwise - and more appropriately and usefully - be regarded as relatively long-lived mega-events. It precludes the possibility of mega-events being long-lived by covering more than the short-lived spectacles, extravaganzas and the like upon which they may well be centred. This possibility has been indicated in the case of Olympic Games:


A mega-event strategy unfolds over a considerable period of time; typically there is a decade between launching a bid and the closing ceremonies and, of course, the legacy of the event can last for many more years. To facilitate comparison [. . .], we divide the Olympic mega-events into three periods: the bid process, the organization period, and the legacy of the Olympics. [32]

An Olympiad is the four-year period between the close of one modern Summer Olympic Games and the close of the next, as exemplified by the interval between the closing ceremony of the 2004 Athens Games and the closing ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Games. If Olympiads rather than just the Games of Olympiads are regarded as mega-events, then this will mean of course that Olympic mega-events will follow on from each other in tandem, as an unbroken chain of abutting sporting mega-events, at least in so far as and for as long as (in accordance with the globalisational approach to mega-events) Olympiads remain global in stature. This is not to ignore how Olympiads do not follow on from each other in a neatly demarcated fashion, but instead flow into each other in various ways, in particular via the economic, political and cultural dimensions of social life through which they are inter-meshed.

Following John Short (above), an indication, or measure, of the mega-even status of any Olympic Games or its encompassing Olympiad will be the number of competing countries and territories involved, there being 199 at the 2000 Sydney Games [Short, 2003]. Since 2000, there has been a significant increase in number that are eligible to send teams of competitors to Olympic Games through the IOC membership of their National Olympic Committees (NOCs), the result being that as of 2009 all the Member States of the United Nations had become eligible. Consequently, every UN-recognised (independent, sovereign) nation-state except for the Holy See has acquired the (albeit still conditional) right to send a team to the Games. There are 205 NOC members of the IOC, covering all 192 UN Member States plus thirteen other territories: Taiwan, or the Republic of China (ROC), which the IOC calls Chinese Taipei; the Palestinian territories, which the IOC calls Palestine; four US overseas territories (American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and United States Virgin Islands); three UK overseas territories (Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, and Cayman Islands); two Netherlands consitutent territories (Aruba and Netherlands Antilles); Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC); and Cook Islands, an associated state of New Zealand. Three NOCs joined the IOC during the 2004-8 Beijing Olympiad, these being from Marshall Islands (2006), Montenegro (2007) and Tuvalu (2007). Through the 205 NOCs, almost every (geo-politically defined) nation-state, country and territory and every (ethnically defined) nation was at least formally represented by a team of competitors at the 2008 Beijing Games. On these ground, it is reasonable to claim that the IOC, the Olympic Games and the Olympic Movement have reached global saturation point [33].

The clear signs are that the Beijing Games and Olympiad are mega-events; are the greatest mega-events of all time; and will remain the greatest mega-events for the foreseeable future. In particular, they are likely to be far greater mega-events than the follow-on 2008-12 London Olympiad and Games, although not so much because of the number and global coverage of the competing teams as of another consideration - that of the coming-out character of the Beijing Olympiad and Games.

The Asian discourse on the Olympics, as discussed in The Beijing Olympiad: the Political Economy of a Sporting Mega-Event [34] focuses on the three Games that have been hosted by Asian cities - Tokyo (1964), Seoul (1988) and Beijing (2008) – and their three encompassing Olympiads, distinguishing these events from all others given the way in which they have certain similar and special features. The three Asian Olympic Games have been viewed as coming-out parties [35], and with some justification [36]. For me, each of the Asian Olympic Games and Olympiads can be regarded as a coming-party party in the sense of a coming-of-age celebration and rite de passage, whereas all other Olympic events, including the subsequent London ones (Olympiad and Games), for example, cannot. What is more, the Beijing Olympiad and Olympics as coming-out celebrations assumed far greater proportions than the earlier Asian Olympic events, in particular because of their global ramifications. The Beijing Olympiad and Games constitute a mega-event, a global-event and a coming-out party which is unprecedented, and which is unlikely to be matched, never mind superseded, for the foreseeable future, if not forever.

The Tokyo and Seoul Games were about celebrating, showcasing and augmenting Japan’s and then South Korea’s economic development and maturation. The Beijing Olympiad and Games were about doing the same things vis-à-vis the surge of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), but in a more inclusive and more globally pertinent way than applies to either Tokyo or Seoul. As Jörn-Carsten Gottwald and Niall Duggan have put it:


the Beijing Olympics are a political spectacle which intends to create a facade of sustainable and equal economic growth in China which has created a new world power. However, looking beyond the smokescreen of ‘China’s coming out party’ you will see that many of the institutional structures needed to maintain this impressive growth such as a strong and independent media and legal system are absent or at best very weak. Beijing 2008 was an excellent opportunity to create or strengthen these much needed institutions. Unfortunately, this opportunity looks destined to be a missed opportunity. [37]

The Beijing Olympiad and Games were about celebrating, showcasing and augmenting the PRC’s emergence as a new world super-power, to paraphrase Gottwald and Duggan, or - to put it yet another way – as a new world order super-power [38]. The Beijing events were a celebration of the PRC’s coming out - or emergence - from its rigid socialist (Marxist-Leninist-cum-Maoist) shell, and of its re-emergence, re-birth or metamorphosis as a capitalist social formation and (political-economy) super-power within the post-Cold War new world order.

One way of looking at the 2008 Games is that they were awarded (by the West) to Beijing as a reward for the PRC both coming outside and coming onside as a capitalist social formation; for the PRC having embraced mainstays of the Western cultural account and, above all, of Western-style capitalism (albeit with Chinese characteristics); for the PRC having peacefully, even meekly, given up its ideological struggle against capitalism and Cold War stand-off with the (victorious and vindicated) West; and for the PRC having more or less sealed the historical fate of historical materialism, the old world order, and the second phase of globalisation.

The first phase of globalisation began with the imperialist expansion of the West (or, more accurately, of Europe) including into East Asia. The first phase gave way at around the time of the 1960-64 Tokyo Olympiad to the second phase, during which globalisation took off while, however, being constrained by the Cold War old world order. This second phase was a bridging stage, which gradually led during the 1984-92 Seoul to Barcelona Olympiads into the current third stage. The second phase of globalisation is perhaps most notable for the concluding, 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. However, it also entailed the PRC’s Era of Reconstruction (1976-89), the PRC’s Dengist reforms (around the four modernisations), and Beijing’s decision to make its first bid to host an Olympic Games. The advent of the third phase of globalisation coincided with Beijing’s 1993 loss to Sydney of the right to host the 2000 Games. Beijing lost to Sydney by just two votes (out of a total of 88) in the final round of voting, after having won in the previous three rounds [39]. Eight years later, in July 2001 in Moscow, Beijing became the clear winner to host the 2008 Games, securing 44 of the 102 votes in the first round and 56 in the second and final round (when Toronto attracted 22 votes, Paris 18 and Istanbul nine).

As inferred, what makes the 2004-8 Beijing Olympiad so extra special and such an extraordinarily huge mega-event is that it was a coming-out party not just for the PRC, but also for the world as a whole; for the so-called international community; and for the emerging global community. It was a celebration of the peaceful transition to the (if not completely peaceful and orderly) new world order in conjunction with that to the third stage of globalisation – the current stage. This third stage is marked by the way in which the Western-led drive towards a single global social (economic, political and cultural) space has been greatly assisted and far more firmly secured by the Eastern-socialist bloc’s – including the PRC’s – embrace in varying degrees of market capitalism, liberal democracy and the Western cultural account centred on individualism, that doctrine which underpins the global human rights regime (GHRR), for instance [40].

Everyone was invited to join in the 2004-8 global community coming-out party, and to enjoy especially this mega-event’s climax, the 2008 Games spectacular. Of course, far from everyone took up the invitation. Apart from the large number of people who were unable to participate in the extravaganza even via mass media, there were many people who refused, resisted, or tried to spoil the party. In the run up to the Games, the Olympiad was used as an opportunity to draw attention to and protest about a range of internally oriented issues, including the PRC’s human rights record, treatment of minorities, lack of (liberal) democracy, suppression of separatist movements, and  ‘occupation’ of Tibet.

Of course, the prospective party-poopers did not stand a chance:


It may be the world’s premier sporting extravaganza, but China is turning the Beijing Olympics into the biggest security operation in history. There will be 100,000 police on duty in Beijing during the 17 days of the Games, backed by 100,000 members of China’s armed forces, 300 specialists in nuclear, biological and chemical warfare, fleets of airplanes, helicopters and warships, and 600,000 ‘security volunteers’, including retirees, students and neighbourhood committees. Surface-to-air missile launchers are already positioned around prime Olympic sites, such as the ‘Bird’s Nest’ stadium and the ‘water cube’ aquatics centre. Unmanned security drones will patrol the skies above Olympic sailors near the naval port of Qingdao. Access to Olympic Games sites will be monitored with security checks, X-ray machines, metal detectors, full-body scanners, electronic passes and biometric keys, such as fingerprint and iris scanning […].  ‘After a hiatus of 150 or more years, China is preparing once again to play on the world stage a role proportional to the importance of its size, history and geography’, said Frank Ching, a Hong Kong-based journalist and columnist. ‘The Games are now seen as the ‘coming out’ of China, serving as a rebirth, as it were, after generations of foreign dominance and domestic oppression’. And China’s authoritarian leaders are not about to let anyone spoil their party.’ [41]

But, the PRC was far from being alone in its determination to prevent its celebration from being exploited by dissidents. Lined up alongside the PRC’s state apparatus were the full gamut, weight and influence of all the other state apparatuses around the world, in unison with the world’s 205 NOCs, not to mention of course the IOC, and the whole of the Olympic Movement. In turn, the alliance of the Olympic Movement and state apparatuses enjoyed the support of the business community, both within the PRC and everywhere else. In turn again, this global-reach, political-economy social compact was able to bask in the tacit, if not active, support of the bulk of the world’s population. The spoilers put in an appearance, and perhaps added to the spectacle, but any free-Tibeters and the like were far from able to compete with the global-reach popularity of Olympic Games in general and appeal of the 2008 Beijing event in particular. The popularity of Olympic Games is simply too strong, perhaps especially so in the post-Cold War new world order. After all, where else can small (the least powerful) countries and territories, nation-states and nations, NOCs and governments so spectacularly challenge, defeat and humiliate the big (the most powerful) ones?

According to John Short, while the Games ‘have broadened in participation’, both ‘athletic success and the hosting of the Games reflect the global inequalities in wealth’. Quite simply, ‘richer countries can send more athletes and can afford the necessary expenditure in sports development and training that ensures success’ [42], the outcome being their disproportionate success at the Games when judged in terms of their medals tally. Of the 927 medals won at the 2000 Sydney Games, 357 were won by just five countries: 96 by the USA, 88 by Russia, 59 by the PRC, 58 by Australia and 56 by Germany. Fifty per cent (463) of the medals were won by competitors from Europe and North America; while just over 2 per cent (50) were won by those from sub-Saharan African teams. A contributing factor, of course, is hosting the Games, as reflected in the final medal table of the Beijing Games, when the PRC came out top with 51 gold medal and 101 medals in all, beating the USA with 36 gold medals and 110 overall, followed by Russia, Great Britain, Germany, Australia, Korea, and Japan (which won just nine gold medals and 25 medals overall) [43].

In effect:


Success at the Olympic Games reflects wealth and national spending on sports. Countries with few resources and little spending are less successful [. . .]. Even as participation in the Games becomes more global, success at the Games becomes more uneven. In effect, the Games reinforce the unequal distribution of resources in the world by the unequal participation of different countries and their unequal success in standing on the medal podium. [44]

Perhaps, but measuring an NOC’s, country’s or territory’s success at a Games with reference to its medals tally without taking into consideration other factors is, for some commentators, misleading. For instance, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has claimed that ‘the traditional measure of medals as a “raw score” [does] not take into account the population of the competing country, a possible factor in the ability of nations to field medal winning athletes’ [45]. The ABS has published ‘an alternative view of the traditional Olympic medal tally to take into account the populations of competing nations’, and at the 2004 Athens Games the result was a remarkable turn around in favour of the smaller countries. Whereas in the raw score final medal table the USA came out top with 36 gold medals and 102 medals overall, followed by China, Russia, Australia, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, South Korea, Great Britain and Cuba (with nine gold medals and 27 medals overall), in the ABS’s medal table by world population, the Bahamas, Norway, Australia, Hungary and Cuba occupy the top five places. There is probably nowhere else but at the Olympic Games where Cuba (itself in the process of jumping on the bandwagon of giving way to globalisation and capitalism), with its population of just 11,323,000, can so spectacularly beat the USA, which – despite its population of 297,031,000 - achieved only 34th place in the ABS table.

The Cuban NOC, state apparatus, government and people will have eagerly grasped the next opportunity, that provide by the Beijing mega-event, but would have been disappointed with its relatively poor showing of only two gold medals, 24 medals overall, and 28th place in the raw medal table. There is no doubt that Cuba is now looking forward to and preparing hard for the 2012 London Games, just like all the other 204 territories with NOC membership of the IOC.

All the signs are that the 2012 Games will be a mega-event in the globalisational sense, while not being anything like as great an occasion as the 2008 Beijing Games, which were a coming-out party when the London Games will not be, at least not in anything like the same sense. The London Games will be a party of sorts, but will be a relatively sober, less heady affair. The Beijing Olympiad and Games constitute a mega-event, global-event and coming-out party of unprecedented and unlikely-to-be-repeated proportions, at least for a long time to come. The Beijing event was and is likely to remain extra special in that it was a coming-out party not just for China, but also for the world as a whole; for the international community; and for the emerging global community. It was a celebration of the transition to the new world order in conjunction with that to the current third stage of globalisation, marked by a major advance in the Western-led drive towards a single global social (economic, political and cultural) space.

While the 2008-12 Olympiad will be mega-event in the globalisational sense, it will be conducted in the shadow of the greatest mega-event, sporting or otherwise, so far and perhaps for a very long time to come: the 2004-8 Beijing Olympiad and Games. This is not to ignore or to diminish the way in which the London mega-event will continue the work, so to speak, of the Beijing extravaganza by variously promoting globalisation towards a single global social space primarily around the Western-based doctrines of capitalism, liberal democracy and individualism, closely articulated as these are, have become and are increasingly becoming with the Olympics - the Games and Olympiads themselves, the Olympic Movement, and that other Western-based doctrine, Olympism.

The Regional Legacy of the Beijing Games and Olympiad
One way of summing up the decision to award the 2008 Games to Beijing is to say that it reflects how, more generally, ‘awarding Games to facilitate or reward reintegration into the world community has been an IOC objective’ [46].

In the particular case of China, however, reintegration into the world community has been accompanied by the withering of the old world order around the bi-polar division and Cold War conflict between a Western, capitalist camp, on the one hand, and an Eastern, communist bloc, on the other. The 2008 Games were awarded to Beijing as a reward for China being especially instrumental in bringing about the transition to the new world order, and concomitantly in facilitating the current, third stage of globalisation process towards a single global social space primarily around (Western-style) market capitalism. The transition has been marked, perhaps above all, by the emergence, or re-emergence, of China as a major, pivotal political-economy player on both the regional and the global planes, replacing Japan regionally and rivalling the USA globally.

As India’s Business Standard has put it:


As advertisements go, [the Beijing Games were] a barely concealed attempt to send out an unequivocal message that the Olympics are really the trumpets that herald the arrival of a new power on the global stage. China has used the occasion entirely to its advantage. There were an unprecedented 79 heads of state and governments [sic] who attended. They were there to cheer their teams, but also for China’s formal coming-out party. [47]

In my view, all those who attended, watched or otherwise celebrated the 2008 Games, the culmination of the greatest mega-event of all time, were variously participating in the world’s coming-out party – the world’s emergence from the stifling old world order stand-off.

Business Standard draws a comparison between the 2008 Games and both the 1936 Berlin Games, ‘which performed a similar role for Nazi Germany (which was raising its head after the bankruptcy that followed World War I)’, and the 1964 Tokyo Games, a celebration of Japan’s rise ‘from the ashes of World War II’. Of note is how like China presently, Germany and Japan ‘had crossed into the category of upper-middle-income countries, with per capita incomes of $3,000 or more’; how similarly ‘the Soviet Union (Moscow 1980) and South Korea (Seoul 1988) were also typical upper-middle-income countries when they hosted the Olympics’; and how, furthermore, ‘Europe’s per capita income when the modern Olympic Games were born in 1896 was also about $3,000’. Business Standard concludes: ‘Clearly, there is a level of development at which countries acquire the capabilities needed to join the club of modern industrial nations, and also the ambition to show off’ [48].

This argument has been taken up by Suman Bery, for whom the ‘Beijing Olympics commemorate China’s arrival as a near-developed country’. Thus:


A glance at the World Bank’s [1 July 2008] estimates of 2007 per capita Gross National Income (GNI) […] shows China at 132nd position at $2360, while India at $950 holds a lowly 160th rank. By way of comparison, per capita GNI at purchasing power parity exchange rates from the same source reveals a figure for China of $5370 (rank 119) while that of India is $2740 (rank 152). [China] today is at roughly the same level of per capita income as other past ‘emerging’ hosts [of ‘coming out’ party Games] such as Mexico, Japan, South Korea and even Italy. [49]

According to Bery, the real per capita GDP of Germany at the time of the 1936 Berlin Games was $4451; of Italy during the 1960 Rome Games was $5916; of Japan in 1964 (Tokyo Games) was $5668; of Mexico in 1968 (Mexico City Games) was $4073; and of South Korea in 1988 (Seoul Games) was $7621. Bery tells us that by 2007, the ‘Chinese [real] per capita income […] would have been around $5375, placing it almost exactly where Japan and Italy were in the 1960s’ [50].

Referring to, in particular, ‘the four-hour opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics’, Business Standard suggests that while it would have ‘left no one in [Asia in] any doubt […] as to what modern China is capable of’ […], most of [the USA] would have been asleep’ [51]. However, this assumption about television audiences beyond Asia appears to be misguided, or at least misleading. According to estimates by Nielsen (the marketing and media information company), the Beijing Games attracted a television a total audience of 4.7 billion (70 per cent of the world’s population) over the 17 days from 8 to 24 August 2008, ‘setting a new viewing record for an Olympic Games’ [52]. The audience for the whole of the 2004 Athens Games was 3.9 billion, and that for the 2000 Sydney Games was 3.6 billion. Of China’s 1.3 billion people, around 94 per cent watched some of the television coverage, as did 94 per cent of people in South Korea and (on the other side of the Pacific) 93 per cent in Mexico. In total, more than 2 billion people, or almost a third of the world’s population, watched the opening ceremony. The ‘highest audience […] for the opening ceremony was in the Asia-Pacific, where more than five in 10 people tuned in, followed by Europe, where 30 per cent of the population watched, and North America, at 24 per cent’ [53].

Of note is how in this account the region to which the term ‘Asia-Pacific’ refers is that region which is otherwise frequently labelled either ‘Pacific-Asia’ or ‘East Asia’ [54], and so which constitutes the Asian (or western) section of the Asia-Pacific as more inclusively demarcated by a range of alternative sources, including the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum [55]. East Asia is widely regarded as having two sub-regions, Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia [56]. Southeast Asia covers the ten Member States (countries) of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) plus East Timor (Timor-Leste), while Northeast Asia covers China [57], Japan, North Korea, South Korea and perhaps one or both of Mongolia and Russia, or at least Siberia [58]. The twenty one Member Economies (or countries and territories) of APEC include seven from Southeast Asia (Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam); five from Northeast Asia (Hong Kong, Japan, People’s Republic of China, Russian Federation, South Korea and Chinese Taipei (Taiwan); five from the Americas, or eastern Pacific Rim (Canada, Chile, Mexico, Peru and the USA); and three from Oceania, or the southern Pacific Rim (Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea) [59]. In my view, the most appropriate and useful approach to defining ‘Asia-Pacific’ is that guided by APEC’s membership, while including the whole of East Asia [60].

In East Asia, not surprisingly, ‘China had the highest percentage of people tuning into the opening ceremony’ of the 2008 Games, while 44 per cent of people in South Korea, 43 per cent of people in Greece, and a similarly high percentage of people in Australia watched. Nielsen claims that ‘Viewing levels were also impressive in the U.S., where […] 65 million people watched the opening ceremony’ [61].

According to Nielsen, the variation in viewing levels ‘across regions and markets’ was affected by ‘time zone and broadcast time differences’ [62]. However, the way in which similar proportions to the 94 per cent of Chinese that watched some of the 2008 Games in South Korea and Mexico, together with the how in the USA ‘the Summer Games ranked as the most-viewed TV event ever, with a total audience of 211 million and an average daily audience of 27 million people’, and how Australia registered a similarly high percentage of viewers for the 17 days overall [63], indicates that on both the western side and the eastern side of the Asia-Pacific region there was comparable interest in the event.

Conceivably, television viewing figures may be taken as the single best indicator of the status and stature of 2008 Beijing Games as a mega-event, and indeed as the crowning of the greatest mega-event and biggest coming-out party of all time. But also conceivably, a measure of the Beijing Games and Olympiads as mega-events lies in their legacy; that is, the events’ post-Games (social) consequences and (sociological) significance.

According to William Kelly:


All Games continue to exist after the fire is extinguished through the required work of completing and publishing official and unofficial records of the Olympiad (reports, documentaries, etc.), fashioning a retrospective theme and narrative, protecting and burnishing the public memories, and engaging broadly in the culminating project of legacy-making. A legacy may be a retrospective refashioning, but the end game of a Games era is a clash of competing legacies as well as a contentious accounting of the multiple after-effects […]. [64]

As if to concur, Cindy Sui, writing for New Kerela, the India-based internet news portal, suggests that whether the 2008 Games have ‘left a good or [a] bad impression depends on who you talk to’ [65], adding:


In a year or two, what people will remember might be little more than the star athletes. The vast majority of people worldwide watch the Games more for the sports than to learn about the host country or the political, human rights and other issues […]. China, however, feels the Olympics [have] been a huge boost the country. ‘The Beijing Olympic Games are a milestone in the course of the great reinvigoration of the Chinese nation’, said a commentary Saturday in the government’s Xinhua news agency. ‘The success of the Beijing Olympic Games has also reflected the great achievements China has scored after three decades of reform and opening up’ […]. ‘Through the Beijing Olympic Games, the world has had a better knowledge of what China is like - a country that makes constant progress, emphasizes friendship and harmony, keeps its promises, and respects all international rules’, said the Xinhua commentary. [66]

Echoing Xinhua’s optimism, Gustaaf Geeraerts (Professor of International Relations and Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Economic, Social and Political Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Brussel) is reported to have suggested that the ‘success of the Beijing Olympic Games has showcased China’s strong capabilities, boosted mutual understanding between the Chinese and foreign citizens, and will surely stimulate its further opening up’ [67]. Similarly, Asia One, Singapore is reported to have claimed that ‘the Olympics have helped to open up Chinese society despite reported human rights abuses linked to the Games’ [68].

In contrast, the Los Angeles Times has been less sanguine: the ‘Beijing Games are over, declared a resounding success. The question now is whether China will finally loosen up or justify its authoritarianism’ [69]; and Jaquelin Magnay, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, has said:


These were the Coming Out Games for a prospective world power that was supposed to open up to the rest of the world. But […] China was exposed to international scrutiny of its social interactions at levels that upset the ruling Communist Party […]. Throughout all of August, the organisers were battling a Western media that was not focusing on the sport, but rather the country’s political regime, its human rights record, oppression of protesters, restrictions on reporting, brutality of photographers […]. From its initial enthusiasm of giving the Games to China to become an instrument of great social change, the [IOC] was forced to the sidelines and became a bit-part player […]. Time will tell if these Games are remembered more for […] China’s pretence of giving its citizens a voice. [70]

Interest in the legacy of the 2008 Beijing Games has concentrated on two dimensions of social change – one internally oriented and the other externally oriented. Internally, the focus of attention has been on China’s authoritarianism, citizenship and human rights. Externally, the focus has been on China’s ‘opening up’ through its relations with the rest of the world at various levels, including the individual (with foreigners), the international (or inter-nation-state), the regional (especially within East Asia), and the global.

In the area of human rights, which drew considerable attention before and during the Games, there is broad agreement among observers at least outside China that the Games have had little or no effect [71]. The consensus is that the Games themselves have not had much of an impact on China’s human rights profile, nor consequently on that of East Asia or on the global human rights regime (Close and Askew, 2004). Of course, this does not mean that there are no signs whatsoever of a shift in China’s human rights record, only that the Beijing Games and Olympiad have made little difference. After all, as of 16 November 2009, of the 18 UN human rights instruments that are available for ratification by Member States, the PRC had ratified eight - International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD); International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR); Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT); Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW); Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC); Optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict CRC-OPAC; Optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography CRC-OPSC; and Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This number compares with only five ratifications by the USA, which is just one more than North Korea’s tally, the same number as Somalia’s, one less than Iran’s, four less than Japan’s, and eight less than South Korea’s [72].

Still, while the citizens of China may have scarcely benefited from the 2008 Games in terms of their human rights, they may have benefited in another way, in that ‘Beijing Olympic organizers say they made a profit out of hosting [the] Games’. According to figures released ‘by the government audit bureau, $2.8 billion was spent on organizing and staging the Games, including the Paralympic Summer Games that followed’, whereas by approaching a year later the Games had generated an income of $3 billion, ‘leaving a profit of $176 million.’ [73]. At the same time, however, some both inside and outside China will have benefited far more than others in economic terms: ‘Sponsors of the Beijing Olympics have spent hundreds of millions of dollars for 16 days in the spotlight and they reckon it was money well spent to get a foothold in the huge Chinese market’ [74].

None the less, there appears to be broad agreement that, apart from what might be called short-term revenue gains, there will be little or no ‘long-term economic impact of the Games on Beijing and China overall’ [75]:


Virtually every country that has hosted an Olympics since World War II saw its GDP growth drop - in some cases, sharply - in the year following their respective Olympics […]. Most economists, however, argue China will avert the Olympics curse. ‘Fears of a post-Olympics slump are overblown’, says HSBC economist Frederic Neumann. ‘China is a $4 trillion economy, and in the larger context, the games aren’t terribly important for the economy as a whole. We don’t foresee a slump by any means’. Beijing’s contribution to national GDP, and its population as a proportion of national population are insignificant, particularly when compared with other Olympic host cities in recent decades […], points out UBS economist Jonathan Anderson. [76]

As Dinah Gardner has put it, the Olympic Games were ‘only a small blip in China’s grand scheme - now it is simply back to business as normal’ [77]. That is, argues Xiao Gongqin, a Shanghai Normal University professor of history, the Games were ‘a driving force to push China forward but it is still within the scope of [the] existing development system’ [78].

Economics aside, however, the people of China were ‘enthused with a vibrant sense of national pride’ [79], and consequently Xu Wu (a professor of journalism at Arizona State University) has prophesised, ‘Post-Olympics China, at least in the first one or two years, will be marked with triumphant glory and renewed ambition’ [80]. Accordingly, on ‘the political front there is a general consensus with both Chinese and foreign observers that the success of the Olympics has significantly bolstered domestic support for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’ [81], as a result of which, Xiao Gonqin suggests, ‘the Chinese government’s credibility, prestige and authority will reach the highest point ever’ [82].

China’s Olympic fever has been used to help account for how a Pew Research Centre survey a few weeks before the 08 August 2008 opening of the Beijing Games found that 86 per cent of Chinese people had ‘a positive view of their country and the economy (and thus the government) – ranking China the most satisfied out of 24 nations’ [83]. Gardner reports how in the survey, 93 per cent of Chinese people believed the Olympics would ‘improve China’s international image’, notes how Xu Wu has argued that through ‘the Olympic mirror China certainly saw a strong, proud, and magnificent image of itself’, an ‘image [which] will bury a long-endured painful memory’. For Xu Wu, the ‘collective sentiment of post-Olympics Chinese will be more redeemed, more relaxed, and thus more “normal”’ [84]. In particular, Xu Wu suggests, the Games provided ‘a confidence boost that may help China open up further’.

In Gardner’s view, China successfully used ‘the sports extravaganza’ as ‘a gateway to gaining international recognition’:


‘We used to have a very sad nationalism because we struggled through a lot of humiliation and setbacks during the last 100 years’, says Xiao [Gonqin]. ‘And that is not healthy because it has made us unconfident and overly sensitive. The Olympic games shows that China has already been accepted and acknowledged internationally […]. Chinese people’s confidence is boosted and our nationalism has become more optimistic, healthy and mature’. On a global scale, the Olympics have also fuelled the government’s world power aspirations, says Professor Edward Friedman, a China expert at the University of Wisconsin. ‘The goal of the CCP internationally is to establish China as a great power at least the equal of the US’, he says. ‘So far, the [Party] should feel that the Beijing games, from the facilities to the Chinese team’s performance, have succeeded in moving China ahead in its preferred direction’. [85]

The boost provided by the 2008 Games to China’s national pride, confidence and assertiveness appears to have had not only internal, but also external ramifications. Externally, it has had an impact at both the regional and global levels, in particular through its spill-over effect on the Olympic Movement itself. As William Kelly has put it:


the Olympic Movement is a global formation of governance, events, and political economy […]. The Olympic Movement is really a crucible of localism, nationalism, regionalism, and globalism. Struggles to define and direct Olympic aims, events, properties, and agendas take place within and among cities and national sports federations, among nation-states of world regions, and across the IOC membership. In the case of Japan, the support for its bid has been shored up by a national anxiety about the political and economic challenge of its rival East Asian superpower, China. [86]

The legacy of the Beijing Games has included the impact of this mega-event on Tokyo’s bid for the right to host the 2016 Games [87]. In the run up to the IOC’s decision in October 2009 on the 2016 Games, William Kelly examined the circumstances surrounding and background to the Tokyo bid [88]. He has emphasised the bid’s ‘embeddedness’ both in the ‘jockeying for global city preeminence’ and in ‘East Asian regional politics’, and claims that in the build-up to the result of the bid the Japanese people were ‘feeling anxious about the balance of power and prestige in both spheres’ – in, that is, both the global sphere and the regional sphere.

For Kelly, any applicant or candidate city must be attuned ‘to ongoing Games cycles’, which in the case of Tokyo’s 2016 bid ‘required a triangulation between’ the ‘long and fraught Sino-Japanese relationship’ and the competitive London-Tokyo relationship over each city’s global financial centre ambitions. He argues that Japan viewed the 2008 Beijing Olympics ‘with one eye towards the upcoming Games in London and the other towards its own bid to return the 2016 Summer Games to Tokyo’. Japan’s reactions to the Beijing Games were ‘decidedly mixed’, ranging ‘from admiration to anxiety’. This was in part ‘based on the deeply ambivalent Sino-Japanese relationship, which some Japanese leaders feel is replacing the US-Japan relationship as the country’s most problematic bilateral relation’.

The Beijing Games, precisely because of their success and impact on China’s self-confidence in relation to the rest of the world, caused concern in the East Asian region, and perhaps above all in Japan. The Japanese people responded ambivalently to the Beijing spectacle:


Forty-four years after the first Asian Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan still feels that the region is less than fully acknowledged by the IOC and the Olympic Movement, and the country took satisfaction in a third Asian nation [following Japan in 1964 and South Korea in 1988] joining the host list. Japanese popular and press coverage of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies was glowing, and the architecture and organization of the Games were generally well-reviewed. But the massive economic resources and the oppressive political coordination of the Chinese government drew harsh criticism and stirred deep nervousness about Japan’s ability to contend with China’s growing clout in the region. [89]

On the one hand, Japanese people tend to share an Asian identity with China in relation to the rest of the world, as a result of which they were well disposed towards Beijing hosting the 2008 Games, and were then highly impressed with the event itself. Thus, ‘the statements by Japanese officials and the coverage by the Japanese media [indicate] a genuine admiration for the smooth logistical efficiencies of the overall production of the Games and the beauty of architecture and performances that foreground Chinese but more generally East Asian competencies and aesthetics’ [90].

On the other hand, the award of the 2008 Games to Beijing followed by the August 2008 extravaganza itself served to sharply emphasise China’s growing presence and power on the world stage, and associated power within (East) Asia, in particular in relation to Japan. Consequently, Japanese people’s admiration for China and the Beijing Games was tempered by their sense of nervousness over China’s growing political-economy weight and military might [91]:


Japanese public opinion and media commentary […] understood the subtext of China’s sloganeering of a ‘one hundred year dream’ to mount the Olympics. To many Japanese, the phrase was a thinly veiled code for an end to ‘one hundred years of national humiliation’ and a clear reference to the Western and Japanese aggressions that preceded the PRC era. At the same time, the implied belligerence stirred deep anxieties in Japan about its ability to respond to the growing economic and [political] power of China. [92]

According to Kelly, in any Games timeline, or stages through which all Olympics pass, ‘there is interplay of at least four levels of political and economic interests and ideologies that shape the direction and eventual outcome of bidding and hosting’:


There are local agendas, nationalist sentiments, regional rivalries, and global ambitions. All [were] on display in the case of Tokyo’s efforts to secure the 2016 Games […]. At the local level, the bid [was] deeply enmeshed in the political economy of metropolitan development and in the populist bravado of [Tokyo’s mayor Ishihara Shintarō]. [93]

Thus, the Tokyo bid was ‘shaped by - and buffeted by - the local politics of metropolitan development’, while also there was ‘an effort to create an Olympic narrative with strong nationalist undertones’ [94]. Kelly explains:


The current malaise in Japan is wide and deep. It is felt by the most fanatical rightwing militants who rue Japan’s pacifism and weak patriotism, by the broad mainstream population who are losing confidence in government competence and are facing massive retrenchment in secure employment, and by progressives on the left, who are gravely concerned about the spectrum of social problems, rising militarism eroding the Constitution’s peace provision, and lack of national political vision. [In the wake of] the collapse of the speculative bubble in [1991, the] 1990s were tagged the ‘lost decade’ but [this] decade […] is reaching twenty years in duration, and the country has yet to find its way out of its collective angst. [95]

Kelly notes that the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games stand out ‘in national memory as a peak moment of collective accomplishment’. They are a poignant reminder of Japan as a ‘nation rising from the material and moral devastation of wartime defeat and mobilizing to produce a mega-event that symbolized domestic resolve, national recovery, and international acceptance’. In the case of Tokyo’s bid for the 2016 Games, there was a ‘very pointed deployment of a rhetoric of “reviving the 1964 Olympic spirit” in order to resuscitate national confidence and redress the widespread pessimism of the present moment’. At the time of the bid, there was a ‘sense of decline’, which moreover was ‘aggravated by fear of China’s dynamism, on the one hand, and a frustration with lingering subordination’ to the U.S.A., on the other. While many Japanese found the ‘strident neo-nationalism of mayor Ishihara […] repugnant’, most harked ‘back nostalgically to the legacy of 1964 as impetus for a renewal of the same national spirit and international acclaim’.

Kelly argues that the supporters of Tokyo’s bid for the 2016 Games were ‘gambling that the potential gains at the local and global levels [would] justify the enormous costs to the national government and the risks of aggravating East Asian regional tensions by an “Ishihara” Tokyo Games’. These tensions are far from being confined to the relationship between Japan and China:


much of the nationalist sentiment that fuels Japanese supporters of Tokyo’s bid is embedded in the long-term and contemporary rivalries in East Asia – vis-à-vis China, but also in response to the serious tensions on the Korean peninsula. At least since the 1950s, when the IOC confronted the two-China issue, the politics of East Asia have been played out in the Olympic Movement.

Although it is often said that the East Asian countries have only recently been given proper standing and importance in the Olympic Movement, it has long been the world region that most directly confronts the IOC with the fundamentally political nature of its mission. As national entities, as national sports federations, and as host cities, Japan, South Korea, North Korea, China, and Taiwan have been locked in a wary embrace, allies in their quest for Olympic parity, but often bitter rivals in their competition for Olympic acknowledgement and prestige. Thus, the Tokyo Bid Committee [was] at pains to distinguish its application from the [2008] Games even as it [appealed] to the growing significance of East Asia as a region, economically and ideologically, in the IOC’s vision of the Olympic future. [96].

It is the tension, conflict or contradiction between, on the one hand, Japan, China and the rest of East Asia increasingly sharing a distinct identity and sense of common, collective destiny in relation to the rest of the world and, on the other hand, the way in which the same political-economy players are locked in deeply rooted rivalries and antagonisms that provides the key to understanding much about decisions and developments within East Asia and the Asia-Pacific, including much about Olympic bids and prevailing levels of regional coherence and cohesion, regionalisation and regional integration.

William Kelly suggests that from the ‘perspective of IOC geopolitics, the sequence of Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, and London 2012 leads prevailing wisdom to assume that the 2016 must be in the Americas - either Chicago in the north or Rio de Janeiro in the south’. Indeed, Tokyo was unsuccessful in its bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games. This honour went to Rio de Janeiro. It went for the first time to a South American city, and for first time to a country in the southern hemisphere other than Australia, but none the less to yet another (like China) rapidly emerging market in yet another (like East Asia) rapidly emerging region within the global political economy.

The choice of Rio fits into a pattern also in so far as, to paraphrase William Kelly, awarding Games to reward or facilitate integration into the world community, or global political economy, is an IOC objective, one result being that Games become coming-out parties. The 2012 London Games aside, it is as if the Olympic torch has been passed from one coming-out party (the 2008 Beijing Games) for one BRIC economy (the PRC) to another (the 2016 Rio Games) for a second BRICeconomy (Brazil) [97].

In the mean time, in 2010, South Africa hosted the biggest single-sport mega-event, the FIFA World Cup finals, awarded to South Africa as if in recognition of the country’s rapid development among the BRICSAM nation-states (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, ASEAN and Mexico) [98]. Perhaps, in effect, the way is being prepared for South Africa to host the Olympic Games, even as early as 2020:


organizers of South Africa’s 2010 World Cup think a successful tournament could lead to a bid for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games […]. Organizing committee chief executive officer Danny Jordaan [has said] ‘the IOC decided to give South America its first Olympics, so the only continent now without an Olympics is the African continent and therefore I think it’s something that the IOC certainly will have to begin to think about’. Jordaan said he could envision Johannesburg, Cape Town or Durban bidding along with Egypt for the 2020 Games. [99]

As well as a bid from a South African city for the 2020 Games, a bid has been signalled on behalf of Tokyo [100]. However, Tokyo may well be disappointed again if Danny Jordaan has his way, and in so far as a South African Games would have the lure of a further coming-out party, a further reward for – as well as to further facilitate – South Africa’s integration into the global political economy, and doing so as if lighting the way for the rest of Africa.

Whatever motivates and shapes any bid by Tokyo for the 2020 Games, Tokyo’s bid for the 2016 Games was affected by (if William Kelly is to be believed) Japan’s anxiety about China, fuelled as this was by the 2008 Games. Still, it is likely that neither the Beijing Games nor any subsequent Olympics-related event will have much influence in the long-term on the course of Sino-Japanese relations, largely dependent as these are on what are regarded on both sides of the East China Sea as more important considerations.

It is these considerations that lie behind how China and Japan in concert with most other East Asian political economy players – including the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – appear to be increasingly ensconced in strengthening their network of intra-regional bilateral and multilateral ties, including through both de facto and de jure regionalisation and regional integration, processes which in the view of many policy-makers and others in East Asia are inexorably leading to the creation of an East Asian Community (EAC), perhaps somewhat akin to the European Union (EU) [101].

In the midst of these processes and what is driving them, any Olympic-related matters are likely to have little influence on Sino-Japanese, East Asian or Asia-Pacific relations, while any influence had is likely to be affirmative vis-à-vis regionalisation towards an East Asian Community, in particular through their boost to the formation of a distinct East Asian regional identity in relation to the rest of the world.

Perhaps above all, the value of hosting an Olympic Games in East Asia, the Asia-Pacific or any other region, such as South America or southern Africa, lies in how the Games put all competition, rivalries and anxieties in perspective - in their place - in particular in comparison with and in relation to each another. Any Olympics-related competition, rivalry and anxiety will pale relative to what will stand out as far more important, fundamental and vital considerations, concerns and interests. What will appear more important in East Asia and the Asia-Pacific is the prevailing and rapidly growing competition from political economy players in other regions, including India in South Asia, Brazil in South America and South Africa in southern Africa, and the advantages of confronting this competition in a collective, organised manner. What will appear more important is how external nation-states are increasingly turning for competitive purposes to regional integration and organisations, exemplified not only by the European Union (EU) and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), but also by the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).

The part played by and relative importance of the Olympics in East Asia and the Asia-Pacific in the future will depend largely on the degree to which the Games (wherever they are held) will help enhance regional identity and robustness in confronting external challenges in the interregnum prior to the construction under globalisation of a single global social space. On these grounds, it might be anticipated that the appeal of the Olympics in East Asia and the Asia-Pacific will remain strong, and indeed will become stronger.

1. FIFA, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (or the International Federation of Association Football) is the international governing body of association football. It is responsible for organising football’s major international tournaments, above all the FIFA World Cup. It has 208 member associations, 16 more members than the UN and three more than the IOC, but five fewer than the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).
2. The prefix ‘mega-’ comes from the Greek word megas, meaning great (Peasall, Concise Oxford Dictionary, 2001, 886). It means ‘abnormally large’ (Medicine Net, 2009), or denotes surpassing other examples of its kind’ (Answers, 2008).
3. What comes to mind is the word ‘elephantine’, meaning of extraordinary size and power (Answers, 2009).
4. Aguilar et al., ‘Mega-city Expansion in Latin America’, 2003.
5. Close et al., The Beijing Olympiad, 2007, 34.
6. Close, ‘Regional Integration the East Asian Way’, November 2008.
7. Ibid.; see also Close, ‘Regional Integration the East Asian Way’, December 2008.
8. Close and Askew, Asia Pacific and Human Rights, 2004b, 243–4; Close et al., The Beijing Olympiad, 2007, 35.
9. See Wilson and Purushothaman, ‘Dreaming with BRICs’, 2003; Jain, Emerging Economies, 2007.
10. See also Andranovich et al., ‘Olympic Cities’, 2001.
11. Short, ‘Going for Gold’, 2003; see also Axford, The Global System, 1995; Baylis and Smith, The Globalization of World Politics, 2004; Held et al., Global Transformations, 1999.
12. Short, ‘Going for Gold’, 2003.
13. Ibid.
14. Roche, Mega-Events and Modernity , 2000; ‘Mega-events, Time and Modernity’, 2003; ‘Mega-events and Modernity Revisited’, 2006.
15. Roche, Mega-Events and Modernity, 2000, 1.
16. Roche, ‘Mega-events, Time and Modernity’, 2003, 99.
17. Ibid., 99-101.
18. Ibid., 100-1.
19. Ibid., 100–1.
20. Ibid., 100.
21. Ibid., 99.
22. Horne and Manzenreiter, Japan, Korea and the 2002 World Cup, 2002.
23. Tomlinson and Young, National Identity and Global Sports Events, 2005.
24. Horne and Manzenreiter, Japan, Korea and the 2002 World Cup, 2002, 187.
25. Short, ‘Going for Gold’, 2003.
26. Roche, ‘Mega-events, Time and Modernity’, 2003, 99.
27. John Short refers to 199 countries (Short, ‘Going for Gold’, 2003), but he might have referred to 199 countries and territories.
28. Short, ‘Going for Gold’, 2003.
29. Ibid.
30. Roche, ‘Mega-events, Time and Modernity’, 2003, 100–1.
31. Ibid., 99.
32. Andranovich et al., ‘Olympic Cities’, 2001, 118.
33. All NOCs apart from one, that of Brunei, participated in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.
34. Close et al., 2007.
35. Ibid., pp. 21-44.
36. On the coming-out view of Asian Olympic Games, see Black and Bezanson, ‘The Olympic Games, Human Rights and Democratisation’, 2004; Gottwald and Duggan, ‘China’s Economic Development’, 2008; Levine, ‘A Golden Opportunity’, 2008; Manheim, ‘Rites of Passage’, 1990, 279-95.
37. Gottwald and Duggan, ‘China’s Economic Development’, 2008, 339.
38. See Close and Ohki-Close, Supranationalism in the New World Order, 1997.
39. See Games Bids, 6 February 2009.
40. See Close and Askew, Asia Pacific and Human Rights, 2004a.
41. National Post, ‘China Leaves Nothing to Chance’, 2008.
42. Short, ‘Going for Gold’, 2003.43. See Skye Sports, ‘Medals Table’, 2008.
44. Short, ‘Going for Gold’, 2003.45. ABS, ‘Australia Finishes Third’, 2004.
46. Kelly, ‘Asia Pride’, 2009.
47. Business Standard, ‘Upper-middle Income Magic’, 2008.
48. Ibid.
49. Bery, ‘The Next Twenty Years’, 2008.
50. Ibid.; see also Maddison, The World Economy, 2003.
51. Business Standard, ‘Upper-middle Income Magic’, 2008.
52. Dhoot, ‘Beijing Olympics’, 2008.
53. Ibid. See also BOCOG, ‘Global TV Viewing’, 2004; Japan Times, ‘4.7 Billion Saw Olympics’, 7 September 2008; Nielsen, ‘The Most Viewed Olympics Ever’, 24 August 2009; Nielsen, ‘Beijing Olympics Draw Largest’, 5 September 2008.
54. On ‘Pacific Asia, see Mark Borthwick, Pacific Century, 2006; Fu-chen Lo, Emerging World Cities in Pacific Asia, 1997; Xiaoming Huang, Politics in Pacific Asia, 2009; Yumei Zhang, Pacific Asia, 2003. On ‘East Asia’, see East Asian Study Group, Final Report, 2002; Shiraishi, ‘Regional Cooperation in East Asia’, 2009; Temple University, ‘East Asia’, 2009; Terada, Constructing an “East Asian” Concept’, 2003.
55. See APEC, ‘About Us’, 2009; see also Connors, Davison and Dosch, The New Global Politics, 2004; Eccleston, Dawson and McNamara, The Asia-Pacific Profile, 1998.
56. See ERINA, ‘Maps of Northeast Asia’, 2009.
57. For the sake of convenience, by ‘China’ is meant the People’s Republic of China (PRC) plus the Special Administrative Region (SAR) of Hong Kong, the SAR of Macau, and the Republic of China (otherwise known as Taiwan or Chinese Taipei).
58. ERINA, ‘Maps of Northeast Asia’, 2009.
59. See APEC, ‘About Us’, 2009; see also United Nations Statistics Division, ‘Composition’, 2009.
60. See Close and Askew, Asia Pacific and Human Rights, 2004a; Close and Askew, ‘Globalisation and Football in East Asia’, 2004b; Close, Askew and Xu Xin, 2007.
61. Nielsen, ‘Opening Ceremony’, 14 August 2008.
62. Sharma, ‘Nearly One in Three’, 2008.
63. Nielsen, ‘Beijing Olympics Draw Largest’, 5 September 2008.
64. Kelly, ‘Asia Pride’, 2009; see also Mangan and Dyreson., Olympic Legacies, 2008.
65. Sui, ‘What Will China’s Olympic Legacy Be?’, 2008.
66. Ibid.; see also All About China, 2008.
67. Geeraerts, ‘After the Games’, 2008.
68. Asia One, ‘Olympics Helped’, 2008.
69. Los Angeles Times, ‘“The Best Olympics Ever”’, 2008.
70. Jaquelin Magnay, ‘Beijing Gloss Fades’, 2008.
71. See Amnesty International, ‘China: Legacy of the Beijing Olympics’, 2008; Amnesty International, ‘China: Free Thwarted Olympics Petitioner’, 2009; Financial Times, ‘China: Beyond the Games’, 2008.
72. OHCHR, ‘Status of Ratification’, 2009; see also OHCHR, ‘International Law’, 2007.
73. Japan Times, ‘Beijing Claims Profit’, 20 June 2009.
74. Reuters, ‘For Sponsors’, 2008. In 2010, ‘Shanghai will host the 2010 World Expo, replacing the Olympic “One World, One Dream” motto for the Expo’s catchphrase of “Better City, Better Life”’ (Gardner, ‘China’s Olympic Legacy’, 2008).
75. Naidu, ‘China May Avert’, 2008.
76. Ibid.
77. Gardner, ‘China’s Olympic Legacy’, 2008.
78. Quoted in Gardner, 2008.
79. Gardner, ‘China’s Olympic Legacy’, 2008.
80. Quoted in Gardner, 2008.
81. Gardner, ‘China’s Olympic Legacy’, 2008.
82. Quoted in Gardner, 2008.
83. Ibid.; see also Pew Research Center, ‘The Chinese Celebrate’, 2008.
84. Gardner, ‘China’s Olympic Legacy’, 2008.
85. Ibid.
86. Kelly, ‘Asia Pride’, 2009.
87. ‘Competition among Japanese cities for the right to mount a 2016 bid began in 2004, and the Japan IOC settled on Tokyo on August 30, 2006’ (Kelly, ‘Asia Pride’, 2009).
88. Kelly, ‘Asia Pride’, 2009.
89. Ibid.
90. Ibid.; see also Farrer, ‘One Bed, Different Dreams’, 2008.
91. See Japan Times, ‘Japan Eager’, 24 November 2009: ‘the shift in political power in September [in Japan following the parliamentary general election], Japan aggressively lobbied a U.S. congressional nuclear task force to maintain the credibility of the U.S. “nuclear umbrella” to deter possible attacks by China and North Korea, sources said Monday’.
92. Kelly, ‘Asia Pride’, 2009.
93. Ibid.; see also Nathan, Japan Unbound, 2004, Sherif, ‘The Aesthetics of Speed’, 2009.
94. Kelly, ‘Asia Pride’, 2009.
95. Ibid.; see also Leheny, Think Global, 2006, Harootunian, Japan After Japan, 2006.
96. Kelly, ‘Asia Pride’, 2009.
97. ‘Over the next 50 years, Brazil, Russia, India and China - the BRIC economies – could become a much larger force in the world economy […]. If things go right, in less than 40 years, the BRIC economies together could be larger than the G6 in US dollar terms. By 2025 they could account for over half the size of the G6. Currently they are worth less than 15%. Of the current G6, only the US and Japan may be among the six largest economies in US dollar terms in 2050’ (Wilson and Purushothaman, ‘Dreaming with BRICs’, 2003).
98. ‘The BRICSAM countries are a group of large developing economies whose elevated economic growth and growing regional and international influence will have ripple effects on the world. Not only will these countries experience significant changes as a result of their economic and political rise, but the BRICSAM countries are also likely to be the beneficiaries of this change as the global economic balance of power shifts away from the industrialized countries’(Centre for International Governance Innovation, ‘BRICSAM’, 2009). Brazil has been selected by FIFA to host the 2014 World Cup, and in December 2009 the Japanese government decided to support a bid by Japan to host either the 2018 or the 2022 event (see Hongo, ‘Cabinet OKs Move’, 2009).
99. Games Bids, ‘South Africa Considers 2002 Bid’, 22 October 2009.
100. Games Bids, ‘Tokyo To Bid For 2020 Summer Games’, 7 November 2009.
101. See Close, ‘Regional Integration the East Asian Way’, November 2008; Close,‘Regional Integration the East Asian Way’, December 2008; East Asia Vision Group, ‘Towards and East Asian Community’, 2001; Kim, 2004.

Aguilar, Adrián, Peter Ward and C. B. Smith. ‘Globalization, Regional Development, and Mega-city Expansion in Latin America: Analyzing Mexico City’s Peri-urban Hinterland’. Cities. Vol. 20, no.1 (2003): 3-21.

All About China. ‘China After the Olympics’. All About China, August 2008. Available online at, date accessed 13 January 2011.

Amnesty International. ‘China: Legacy of the Beijing Olympics’. Amnesty International, 26 February 2008. Available online at, accessed 13. January 2011.

─── ‘China: Free Thwarted Olympics Petitioner Ji Sizun’. Amnesty International, 5 May 2009. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

Andranovich, G., M. Burbank and C. Heying. ‘Olympic Cities: Lessons Learned from Mega-event Politics’. Journal of Urban Affairs, Vol. 23, no. 2 (2001): 113–31.

Asia One, Singapore. ‘Olympics Helped to Open Chinese Society’. All About China, August 2008. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). ‘About Us’. APEC Secretariat. Available online at, accessed 4 December 2009.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). ‘Australia Finishes Third’. ABS, 30 August 2004. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

Axford, B. The Global System: Economics, Politics and Culture. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995.

Answers. ‘mega-’. Available online at, accessed 5 December 2008.

─── ‘elephantine’. Available online at, accessed 5 February 2009.

Baylis, J. and S. Smith. The Globalization of World Politics. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG). ‘Global TV Viewing of Athens 2004 Olympic Games Breaks Records’. BOCOG, 12 October 2004. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

Berger, P. and S. Huntington. Many Globalizations. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Bery, S. ‘The Next Twenty Years’. Business Standard (New Delhi), 13 August 2008. Available online at , accessed 13 January 2011.

Black, D. and S. Bezanson. ‘The Olympic Games, Human Rights and Democratisation: Lessons from Seoul and Implications for Beijing’. Third World Quarterly, Vol. 25, no. 7, (2004): 1245-61.

Borthwick, M. Pacific Century: the Emergence of Pacific Asia. 3rd ed. Boulder, Col.: Westview Press, 2006.

Business Standard. ‘Upper-middle Income Magic’. Business Standard (New Delhi), 10 August 2008. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI). ‘BRICSAM’. CIGI. Available online at, accessed 7 December 2009.

Close, P. ‘Regional Integration the East Asian Way: Towards an Analytical Framework’. Paper presented at conference on EU and East Asia within an Evolving Global Order, EU-NESCA (Network of European Studies Centres in Asia), l’Institut d’Etudes Européennes (IEE), Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), November 2008.

─── ‘Regional Integration the East Asian Way’. Newsletter of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies (CSEAS), Kyoto University, no. 59 (December 2008): 16-17.

Close, P. and D. Askew. Asia Pacific and Human Rights: A Global Political Economy Perspective. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004a.

─── ‘Globalisation and Football in East Asia’. In Football Goes East: Business, Culture and the People’s Game in China, Japan and South Korea, edited by W. Manzenreiter and J. Horne. London: Routledge, 2004b: 243–56.

Close, P., D. Askew and Xu Xin. The Beijing Olympiad: The Political Economy of a Sporting Mega-Event, London: Routledge, 2007.

Close, P. and E. Ohki-Close. Supranationalism in the New World Order. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1999.

Connors, M., R. Davison, and J. Dosch. The New Global Politics of the Asia-Pacific. London: Routledge, 2004.

Dhoot, R. ‘Beijing Olympics Draws 4.7 Billion Television Viewers’. Top News, 5 September 2008. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

East Asian Study Group (EASG). Final Report of the East Asian Study Group. Jakarta: ASEAN Secretariat, 2002. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

East Asia Vision Group (EAVG). Towards and East Asian Community. Jakarta: ASEAN Secretariat, 2001. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

Eccleston, B., M. Dawson and D. McNamara, eds. The Asia-Pacific Profile. London and New York: Rouldege and Open University, 1998.

Economic Research Institute for Northeast Asia (ERINA). ‘Maps of Northeast Asia’. ERINA, 2009. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

Farrer, J. ‘One Bed, Different Dreams: The Beijing Olympics as Seen in Tokyo’. Policy Innovations, August 2008. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

Financial Times (FT). ‘China: Beyond the Games’., 4 August 2008. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

Games Bids. ‘Past Results’. Available online at, accessed 6 February 2009.

─── ‘South Africa Considers 2002 Bid’. Available online at, accessed 22 October 2009.

─── ‘Tokyo to Bid for 2020 Summer Games’. Available online at, accessed 7 November 2009.

Gardner, D. ‘China’s Olympic Legacy’., 25 August 2008. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

Geeraerts, G. ‘After the Games: China’s Olympic Legacy’. All About China, August 2008. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

Gottwald, Jörn-Carsten and Niall Duggan, Niall. ‘China’s Economic Development and the Beijing Olympics’. International Journal of the History of Sport, Vol. 25, no. 3 (2008): 339-54.

Harootunian, Harry. Japan After Japan. Durham NC: Duke University Press, 2006.

Held, D., A. McGrew, D. Goldblatt and J. Perraton. Global Transformations: Politics, Economic and Culture. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1999.

Hobsbawm, E. and T. Ranger. The Invention of Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Hongo, J. ‘Cabinet OKs Move to Pursue World Cup’. Japan Times, 10 December 2009. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

Horne, J. and W. Manzenreiter eds. Japan, Korea and the 2002 World Cup. London: Routledge, 2002.

Jain, S. C. Emerging Economies and the Transformation of International Business: Brazil, Russia, India and China. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2007.

Japan Times. ‘4.7 Billion Saw Olympics: Nielsen’. Japan Times, 7 September 2008. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

─── ‘Beijing Claims Profit on 2008 Olympics’. Japan Times, 20 June 2009. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

─── ‘Japan Eager for U.S. to Keep Nuke Deterrence’. Japan Times, 24 November 2009. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

Kelly, W. W. ‘Asia Pride, China Fear, Tokyo Anxiety: Japan Looks Back at 2008 Beijing and Forward to 2012 London and 2016 Tokyo’. Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 23 (June, 2009). Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

Kim, S. ‘Regionalization and Regionalism in East Asia’. Journal of East Asian Studies, Vol. 4 (2004): 39-67.

Leheny, D. Think Global, Fear Local: Sex, Violence, and Anxiety in Contemporary Japan. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press, 2006.

Levine, J. F. ‘A Golden Opportunity for Global Acceptance? How Hosting the Olympic Games Impacts a Nation’s Economy and Intellectual Property Rights with a Focus on the Right of Publicity’. Sports Lawyers Journal, Vol. 15 (2008): 245.

Lo, Fu-chen. Emerging World Cities in Pacific Asia. New York: United Nations University Press, 1997.

Los Angeles Times. ‘“The Best Olympics Ever” – Now What?’. All About China, August 2008. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011

Maddison, A. The World Economy:Historical Statistics. Paris: OECD, 2003.

Magnay, J. ‘Beijing Gloss Fades After Going Through the Wringer’. Sydney Morning Herald, 28 August 2008. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

Mangan, J. A. and M. Dyreson eds. Olympic Legacies: Intended and Unintended - Political, Cultural, Economic, Educational. London: Routledge, 2008.

Manheim, J. B. ‘Rites of Passage: the 1988 Seoul Olympics as Public Diplomacy’. Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 43, no. 2 (1990): 279-95.

Medicine Net. ‘mega-’. Available online at, accessed 21 January 2009.

Meyer, J., F. Ramirez and J. Boli. ‘Ontology and Rationalization in the Western Cultural Account’. In Institutional Structure: Constituting State, Society and the Individual, edited by
G. Thomas, J. Meyer, F. Ramirez and J. Boli (eds). Beverley Hills, CA: Sage, 1987.

Naidu, A. ‘China May Avert the “Olympics Curse”’. Outlook Business, 6 September 2008. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

Nathan, J. Japan Unbound: A Volatile Nation's Quest for Pride and Purpose. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004.

National Post. ‘China Leaves Nothing to Chance as Olympics Nears’. National Post (Canada). 11 July 2008. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

Nielsen. ‘Opening Ceremony Draws 2 Billion Global Viewers’. Nielsen Company, 14 August 2008. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

─── ‘The Most Viewed Olympics Ever’. Nielsen Company, 24 August 2008. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

─── ‘Beijing Olympics Draw Largest Ever Global TV Audience’, Nielsen Company, 5 September 2008. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). ‘International Law’. OHCHR, 2007. Available online at .

─── ‘Status of Ratification of Human Rights Instruments’. OHCHR, 16 November 2009. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

Ohmae, K. The Borderless World. New York: Harper Collins, 1990.

Ohmae, K., The End of the Nation State. New York, HarperCollins, 1995.

Peasall, Judy ed. The Concise Oxford Dictionary. 10th edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Pew Research Center. ‘The Chinese Celebrate their Roaring Economy’, Pew Global Attitudes Project, 22 July 2008. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011

Reuters. ‘For Sponsors, Games Were Money Well Spent’., 25 August 2008. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

Robertson, R. Globalization: Social Theory and Global Culture, London: Sage, 1992.

Roche, M. Mega-Events and Modernity: Olympics and Expos in the Growth of Global Culture. London: Routledge, 2000.

─── ‘Mega-events, Time and Modernity: on Time Structures in Global Society’. Time and Society. Vol. 12, no. 1 (2003): 99-126.

─── ‘Mega-events and Modernity Revisited: Globalization and the Case of the Olympics’.  Sociological Review, Vol. 54, Supplement 2 (2006): 25-40.

Scholte, J. A. Globalization: A Critical Introduction. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2000.

Sharma, K. ‘Nearly One in Three Worldwide Watched Olympics Opener’. Top News, 14 August 2008. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

Sherif, A. ‘The Aesthetics of Speed and the Illogicality of Politics: Ishihara Shintarō as a Cold War Youth’. Japan’s Cold War: Media, Literature, and the Law. By A. Sherif. New York: Columbia University Press, 2009: 173-202.

Shiraishi, Takashi. ‘Regional Cooperation in East Asia and the Role of Public Intellectuals’. Asian Public Intellectuals Quarterly Newsletter, no.18 (January 2009): 1-4.

Short, J. Global Dimensions: Space, Place, and the Contemporary World. London: Reaktion, 2001.

Short, J. ‘Going for Gold: Globalizing the Olympics, Localizing the Games’. Globalization and World Cities Research Bulletin, no. 10 (2003). Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

Skye Sports. ‘Medals Table’, MSN Sport, 24 August 2008. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

Sui, Cindy. ‘What Will China’s Olympic Legacy Be?’., 25 August 2008. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

Temple University. ‘East Asia’. Temple University. Available online at, accessed 6 December 2009.

Terada, Takashi. ‘Constructing an “East Asian” Concept and Growing Regional Identity: from EAEC to ASEAN + 3’. Pacific Review, Vol. 16, no. 2 (2003): 252-77.

Tomlinson, A. and C. Young. National Identity and Global Sports Events. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 2005.

United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD). ‘Composition of Macro Geographical (Continental) Regions, Geographical Sub-regions, and Selected Economic and Other Groupings’. UNSD. 15 April 2009. Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

Wilson, D. and R. Purushothaman. ‘Dreaming with BRICs: the Path to 2050’. Goldman Sachs, Global Economics, no. 99 (2003). Available online at, accessed 13 January 2011.

Huang, Xiaoming. Politics in Pacific Asia: an Introduction. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

Yoda, Tomiko and H. D. Harootunian, eds. Japan after Japan: Social and Cultural Life from the Recessionary 1990s to the Present. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2006 Zhang, Yumei. Pacific Asia: The Politics of Development. London: Routledge, 2003. 

This article was first published in the International Journal of the History of Sport and is republished on in an edited version with kind persmission from the author and the initial publisher Taylor and Francis Group. 

Original source:
‘Olympiads as Mega-events and the Pace of Globalization: Beijing 2008 in Context’ by Paul Close International Journal of the History of Sport Vol.27:16-18 pp.2976-3007

Use of cookies

The website uses cookies to provide a user-friendly and relevant website. Cookies provide information about how the website is being used or support special functions such as Twitter feeds. 

By continuing to use this site, you consent to the use of cookies. You can find out more about our use of cookies and personal data in our privacy policy.