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The Role of Government in the Olympic Games: A Comparative Study of the Beijing 2008 Olympics and the Vancouver 2010 Olympics

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Chan, Chu Hao (Eric)
Jan 06, 2011
Vancouver; Beijing; Olympics; Government; Globalization
The Olympic games have always been the major sports events that draw the attention from the audience, the media and the academics. Every four years, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) chooses a city among four to five candidates, each coming from different countries, to host the event. The bid winners almost always create iconic structures in center of the city in hope to celebrate the victory of the bid. The Olympic games have come to be represented by the symbols of, not only the Five Rings logo, but also the amazing architectural achievement. Nevertheless, in a closer examination of the meaning the two physical structures try to convey, it is surprising how different the messages are. The Chinese logo has a sportsman drawn in the calligraphy style, one of the essences of the Chinese traditions. And the Canadian structure seem to imply a modern and multicultural society while the three future-looking torches lay on one another, collectively creating a splendid scenery. These two diverging images imposed by the statue and the torches are in fact part of the Olympic phenomena that involves not only the governments, but also profit-seeking entrepreneurs, media, mass local residents, opposition groups and many others. These players, according to their political powers, nationalities and social economic standings, sometimes share diverging interests and viewpoints regarding the Olympic games. I aim to compare the role of the Chinese and Canadian government in holding and planning the Beijing 2008 Olympics and the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. However, before going into the detail discussion, several points are to be addressed concerning the nature of the comparison and its relevance to broader geographic concepts. The motivation behind choosing China and Canada as the two cases is to juxtapose two nations with contrasting political systems that react quite differently to the changing global economy. Although this article has a particular focus on the Olympics, the discussion cannot escape the overarching theme of globalization. There seem to be two major forces that collectively shape the look of modern Olympic games: first, the homogenizing force such as commercialization and globalization, and second the localizing force including local political systems and domestic social economies. Although this article has a particular focus on Olympic games, it also deals with the broader globalization-localization narrative that is the overarching theme to be considered along the later discussion.
Includes bibliography, photographs, charts/tables.
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