The Beijing Olympics proved to be a stunning success for the People’s Republic of China, with flawless organisation, a warm welcome to competitors and visitors from every part of the world, assisted by 1.7 million Games volunteers, and a record harvest of medals.
Billions of people in every corner of the world marvelled at the spectacular opening and closing ceremonies and the world-class facilities in which the various sporting events were held.
China’s success was particularly striking for two reasons. First, it demonstrated that a country once contemptuously written off as the ‘sick man of Asia’, the helpless plaything of every imperialist power, has truly, in the memorable words of Comrade Mao Zedong, “stood up” and become a force to be reckoned with.
Second, it was achieved in the face of unrelenting imperialist hostility, which did everything in its power to sabotage China’s preparations to host the Games, even before the country clinched the right to stage them.
An editorial in the New York Times of 12 July 2001 set the tone, declaring that China should know that “its handling of every aspect of the games – including construction of new Olympic arenas, the treatment of foreign visitors and reporters, and the political climate in which the games are held – will be closely monitored by the world”.
As the Games approached, this anti-China campaign reached near hysterical levels, with reactionary hoodlums allowed practically a free hand to stage violent attacks on the Olympic Torch Relay and Chinese citizens in imperialist capitals such as London and Paris, where a disabled young woman athlete was violently assaulted in her wheelchair.
Just the day before the opening ceremony, the BBC was still making unfounded claims that some events might need to be moved or postponed because of supposed environmental problems.
Giving a fitting riposte, China won the most gold medals of any country – 51 to the USA’s 36. And as the Indian magazine Frontline put it:
“The magnificent infrastructure, starting with the ‘Bird’s Nest’ National Stadium and the ‘Water Cube’ swimming arena, is perhaps the best in the world and is ready to act as a training base to turn many generations of Chinese into world-class athletes. Undoubtedly, China’s overwhelming success in these Games and its dozens of stadia will be a lasting legacy for its youth. [International Olympic Committee President Jacques] Rogge was able to see beyond the sporting supremacy of China, which may continue in London in 2012 and afterwards, and said that its overall growth would drive it towards being the leader on other fronts as well. ‘China is becoming an economic superpower. It might well become the economic leader of the world.’…
“China has delivered everything it promised to. One could not have asked for anything better in these Olympic Games. The philosophy of the Green Olympics will continue to be a way of life for the Chinese. The official machinery has decided to improve the quality of life, starting with a clean atmosphere by adopting the stringent measures that have been in vogue during the Games. The world should watch out for a healthier and more powerful China.” (‘Olympics – Red star over the games’, Frontline, 30 August-12 September 2008)
Other socialist countries also fared well at the Games, especially Cuba, which took 12th place in the medal rankings, outstripping every other country in the western hemisphere except for the United States.
On one memorable day, the baseball competition saw China defeat Taiwan, the capitalist island yet to be united with the motherland, which competes as Chinese Taipei, 8-7, and just minutes later Cuba defeated the USA, 5-4, prompting the Financial Times to declare: “It was Communism 2 Capitalism 0.” (‘Communism rules as China and Cuba cover all the bases’, 16 August 2008)
Closely following the Olympics, Beijing also played host to the Paralympics for sportspeople with disabilities, “And for the first time in its 48-year history, the Paralympics saw an Olympic host pledge ‘Two Games with Equal Splendour’ and go all out for ‘transcendence, integration and equality’ for the disabled.” (‘Commentary: 40 days that made history’, Xinhua, 17 September 2008)
Reflecting socialism’s genuine concern for real human rights, China fared even better in the Paralympics than in the Olympics, topping the medal tables with 89 golds and 211 overall, more than double second-place Britain, with 42 and 102 respectively. The United States trailed with 36 and 99.
Attention now shifts to London, which will host the Games in 2012. Yet London, for all Britain’s imperialist loot, will not be able to even begin to compete with the socialist magnificence and splendour of the Beijing Olympics, where lavish expenditure was possible not simply for reasons of prestige but precisely because first-class facilities were being created for the masses of people to enjoy for decades to come – an objective that is hardly a priority for capitalist Britain.