“Olympic education” is the IOC’s label for the educational efforts that are supposed to be an integral part of the Olympic Movement as required by Fundamental Principle #1 of the Olympic Charter, which states that Olympism is a philosophy of life that blends sport with culture and education. Since 2005
In fall of 2007 I was added to the “experts team” of
From this perspective I offer the following evidence in support of this answer to the above question: “No.”
1) The initial inspiration for Olympic education came from outside
In the absence of a well-established legal tradition, and in accord with the effort to implement the “rule of law,”
Within the IOC there is a Commission on Culture and Olympic Education. Since 2000 it has been chaired by the IOC member in
Two of the people who have had a big influence on Olympic education in
2) The initial impetus for
At the 2000 Postgraduate Session at the International Olympic Academy, Donnie Pei was inspired by the Dean, Kostas Georgiadis, who led the Olympic education projects for the 2004 Athens Games. After the success of
In the 1980s we still understood physical education as the
In 2002 Pei and Zhou initiated
The Heart-to-Heart sister school program was organized among 210 schools in
In addition, a teacher training program reached about 10,000 primary and secondary school teachers in
Thus, what began as a “people’s” initiative was picked up by the government. But the intellectuals generally regarded this as a positive development, because without the support of the government there would have been no way to implement their ideas on such a broad scale. As
There is no conflict between them and us. They give us a lot of recognition. We do not take the credit. As scholars we must rely on the government. We cannot be too naïve. We are members of social life, we cannot isolate ourselves. We must have an open mind. The government needs our knowledge. We should not be the “lonely flower admiring itself” (孤芳自赏). If the government understands, then we shut up. “The flames reach higher when people from all around add kindling to them” (周人添柴火焰高). It’s teamwork.
What is most important to
3) Much of the framework and content of Olympic education came from the non-Communist Parties.
Two of the eight legal non-communist parties, the Democratic League and the Jiusan (September Third) Society played a key role in an unprecedented joint effort between the city government, the Party, university professors, and BOCOG, which produced important planning documents on the guiding thought of Olympic education and its concrete implementation. Between 2001 and 2008 the two political parties organized dozens of activities in
Pei was not a member of the Communist Party in 2001. Several years later, he joined the September Third Society.
4) The specific content of Olympic Education is almost completely non-political.
Schools were given complete freedom to design their own Olympic education activities, and the resulting variety is amazing. Students formed their own organizing committees (following the organizational chart on BOCOG’s website) or conducted bid competitions like the Olympic bid. They organized mini-Olympic games with a parade of athletes in the opening ceremony featuring students dressed as the different nations of the world. They produced a huge amount of artwork in every conceivable medium, even beans or bottle tops glued to posterboard. They developed innumerable performance types, including the “Olympic angel chorus” at Yangfangdian, which performs a moving rendition of Bach’s “Ode to Joy” or the “Olympic Volunteer’s Song” while wearing angel wings. Students at the Information Management vocational school, most of whose parents are migrant laborers, spent two years of their after-school time producing a computer-generated animated film in which the Fuwa mascots introduce Olympic history.
Teachers I talked to felt that Olympic education was nonpolitical, and thus contrasted with the previous character education campaigns in the national curriculum. As one teacher told me, “After the national leaders have stated the policy, if the only way you can think to implement it is to shout slogans, it becomes irritating after a while.” With Olympic education, they could use concrete activities to teach children fair play, teamwork, mutual respect, selfless service, international friendship, the pursuit of world peace, and many other concepts. And unlike the previous character education, their students enjoyed the projects.
The words “communist” and “socialist” are almost completely absent in Olympic education materials and lectures. In mid-May, I sat through 1-1/2 hours of presentations by teachers at local schools considered to have the best examples of Olympic education, and I did not hear the words “communist” or “socialist” once. Last week I attended a meeting of the Olympic Education Standing Office to plan a book that will summarize and analyze the thousands of activities carried out under its umbrella. The success of the Olympic education effort is not being judged by whether it promoted loyalty to the Party or nation, but by whether it motivated the students and produced creative results. I also attended several of the lectures delivered in the teacher training program and to the volunteers. Like the content of the school programs, these lectures largely impart knowledge about the world outside
The most political content I have seen was at a meeting run by the Communist Youth League of the
I do not feel that the Party and government are explicitly claiming responsibility for organizing these games – on the contrary, public statements claim that the games belong to all people, that “everyone can participate” (China has placed particular importance on the Olympic creed that “the most important thing is to participate”). The strongest argument that one could accurately make is that the Games implicitly support the Communist Party. But if one wants to venture into the realm of implicit messages, there many others that contradict this one. I believe the major message in Olympic education is that there is an exciting and colorful world out there, and
Actually, I think it is more accurate to conclude that the Olympic Games have been de-politicized in
Today’s world lacks an education that focuses on a global horizon and is firmly based on the interests of humankind as a whole. It was precisely this lack that sparked the emergence of Olympic education. Olympic education aims to cultivate qualified citizens of the “global village,” to help them break through the various limitations of their respective societies, to impress the seal of a world citizen on top of the existing identity of a national citizen. (In the forthcoming Olympic Studies Reader).
Enduring social change only occurs when the ideas in people’s heads change. In my opinion, Olympic education is one of the most important dimensions of the Beijing Olympics, one whose effects will be felt for decades to come. But we will never be able to prove them or measure them, and so what is going on in this realm will be unlikely to make headlines, and its place in history may never be recorded.
I once witnessed Donnie Pei become irritated at a reporter asking him questions about political issues surrounding the games. He stood up and passionately told him in English:
The Olympic Games are a congregation, a celebration, a holiday – it’s a festival. If some Westerners take this time to raise political issues, tell them they’re stupid. Even if it’s George Bush – tell him to go to the IOA and receive an Olympic education. Olympism is respect for any culture, any people, any nation. That’s why the Olympic Games survived one hundred years until now. We are promoting love between people. I don’t want to promote hatred, such as the