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Beyond the Final Score

Beyond the Final Score: The Politics of Sport in Asia

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    Beyond the Final Score
    Book Description:

    The Beijing Olympics will be remembered as the largest, most expensive, and most widely watched event of the modern Olympic era. But did China present itself as a responsible host and an emergent international power, much like Japan during the 1964 Tokyo Games and South Korea during the 1988 Seoul Games? Or was Beijing in 2008 more like Berlin in 1936, when Germany took advantage of the global spotlight to promote its political ideology at home and abroad?

    Beyond the Final Score takes an original look at the 2008 Beijing games within the context of the politics of sport in Asia. Asian athletics are bound up with notions of national identity and nationalism, refracting political intent and the processes of globalization. Sporting events can generate diplomatic breakthroughs (as with the results of Nixon and Mao's "ping-pong diplomacy") or breakdowns (as when an athlete defects to another country). For China, the Beijing Games introduced a liberalizing ethos that its authoritative regime could ignore only at its peril.

    Victor D. Cha-former director of Asian affairs for the White House-evaluates Beijing's contention with this pressure considering the intense scrutiny China already faced on issues of counterproliferation, global warming, and free trade. He begins with the arguments that tie Asian sport to international affairs and follows with an explanation of athletics as they relate to identity, diplomacy, and transformation. Enhanced by Cha's remarkable facility with the history and politics of sport, Beyond the Final Score is the definitive examination of the events-both good and bad-that took place during the Beijing Olympics.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51929-8
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures and Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    (pp. 1-29)

    We’ve all done it with varying degrees of skill. It is a universal language and one of the world’s oldest pastimes, one that in its perfect execution approximates an art form. No, this is not a book about sex. It is a book about sports, and in particular the politics of sports and world affairs.

    Political science refers to sports as “an institutionalized competitive activity that involves vigorous physical exertion or the use of relatively complex physical skills by individuals whose participation is motivated by a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic factors . . . it is played under standardized...

    (pp. 30-39)

    Scholars of international politics do not pay much attention to sport. Sport does not occupy a week’s lecture on the syllabi of most world politics classes at universities, and it barely receives mention in Western and Eastern course textbooks on international politics.¹ The link between sport and politics is so rarely made in academia that when I chose to teach a full course on it at Georgetown in the fall of 2007, it made the Washington Post. By contrast, those who study sport rather than world politics have not observed the former’s impact on nation-states, instead largely working in fields...

    (pp. 40-71)

    Sport captures the national imagination. When an athlete representing her country competes and wins, she elicits a feeling of success and a patriotic identification among her countrymen that art, music, entertainment, and politics cannot replicate. Sport is a powerful prism through which national identity gets refracted; it affects how a nation sees itself and the image it wants to portray to the rest of the world. The key link between sport and identity is emotion. Victories represent the validation of one’s place in the world, or they symbolize a national aspiration. Sport is a cathartic and emotional experience that lends...

    (pp. 72-103)

    With these historic words to a visiting delegation of American pingpong players by the Chinese premier, a new era opened in Sino-American relations. This rapprochement would have effects far beyond Asia as the world welcomed the wealth of economic and geostrategic benefits created by the meeting of East and West. Who would have thought that a ping-pong ball could help facilitate this sea change in world politics? Sport is more than sport. It is a tool of diplomacy. Sporting events can carry a political significance that goes far beyond the final score. This significance is measured not only in terms...

    (pp. 104-118)

    To what extent and in what manner is sport an agent of change in world politics? The preceding chapters have reviewed ways in which sport has been inextricably intertwined with national identity. Sport can also be a tool of diplomacy, facilitating breakthroughs or operating as a manner of diplomatic conflict. But sport can register as more than a symbol or a tool—it can be an agent of change. This change is both physical (this chapter’s discussion) and political (chapter 6). When nations bid for a world sporting event, this creates tremendous impetus for physical change and development of the...

  11. 6 CATCH-22
    (pp. 119-146)

    In the preceding chapters, I have shown how sport precipitates tremendous physical change, turning cities into six-year construction sites before the Olympics and totally remaking everything from airports to highways to beds and lavatories. But how deep does this change go? Does physical change lead to deeper political change. If so, how might this happen?

    The history of sport in Asia shows that sporting events creates certain pressures for change upon the host government in domestic and international policies. What may have once been a standard way of doing business changes as new audience costs become associated with a government’s...

    (pp. 147-156)

    Just after Beijing won its bid to host the 2008 Olympics, a U.S. government official with years of experience dealing with China predicted that China might have bitten off more than it could chew by hosting this event. She predicted that the Chinese leadership would find itself in the glare of the international spotlight; that thousands of journalists from around the world would be scrutinizing all aspects of life in China, including human rights practices; that Chinese leaders would not be able to hide from this scrutiny; and that if they did so, China would sacrifice a historic opportunity to...

    (pp. 157-160)

    What will be the link between sport and politics in the future? When London hosts the 2012 Summer Games or when Sochi, Russia, hosts the Winter Games two years later, what might we expect to see? On day seventeen of the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese breathed a huge sigh of relief. Exhausted but gleeful officials congratulated one another on a job well done. Though not without its share of embarrassing moments, the Beijing Games concluded as many Chinese had hoped. They portrayed China as a great power, in Hu Jintao’s words now “open” to the world. Their athletes performed well,...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 161-174)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 175-182)