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Monday, May 19, 2008

Susan Brownell, America's and Japan's Olympic Debuts: Lessons for Beijing 2008 (and the Tibet Controversy), Japan Focus, May 16, 2008. is worth reflecting upon the fact that the Beijing Olympic Games will be the first Olympics to be staged by an Asian nation that is not host to U.S. military bases.

The third modern Olympic Games were held in St. Louis in 1904 alongside the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (world's fair), and while China did not take part in the sports (it would send its first Olympic athlete to the 1932 Los Angeles Games), the Qing dynasty sent the first official delegation that it had ever sent to an international exposition. It was motivated to do so by concerns about the negative national image of China promoted by the unofficial exhibits at previous fairs, such as the opium den exhibit at the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The 1904 Olympics were apparently the first Olympics to be reported in the press back in China.

The world's fair was America's coming-out party as a world power. It had just acquired the former Spanish colonies of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam as a result of the Spanish-American war of 1898 and the subsequent Philippines-American war. At the fair, it presented itself as an expanding power, with an extremely large display devoted to the Philippines. Another large section of the exposition grounds was devoted to displays intended to demonstrate that the government was succeeding in civilizing American Indians.

This article reflects on Olympic debuts by the US, Japan and China, and the conflict between the established powers and newcomes as well as questions of nation and empire that are played out on the field of international sports.

This essay was originally posted on The China Beat (5-3-08). It has been revised and expanded for Japan Focus. Posted at Japan Focus on May 16, 2008.

Susan Brownell is the author of Training the Body for China and Beijing's Games: What the Olympics Mean to China.

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Susan Brownell is the author of Training the Body for China, which is widely recognized as the single best scholarly work on Chinese sports. Her latest book is Beijing's Games: What the Olympics Mean to China.Recommend this Post

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