Next week is the start of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. This sixteen day international sports celebration will showcase athleticism, grace, determination, perseverance and courage, while captivating viewers from around the world. For me, the two and a half week Olympic gathering is especially timely because it coincides with a visit from my Chinese exchange student, 李皓宇. After my enamoring exchange trip to China in October and experiencing the warmth and embrace of the Chinese culture and family, I look forward to welcoming 李皓宇 to my arena and sharing in the Olympic tradition as a team. As spectators, we will experience the sports and history of our nations while embracing a sense of camaraderie, spirit and sportsmanship for one another and our respective teams and nations.
The history of the Olympic movement traces back to the Athenian Golden Age. It was a religious festival to honor the King God, Zeus by offering an olive wreath to Olympus. The Olympics lasted for a thousand years in Greece, and became extinct for more than a millennium. In 1896, French Baron Pierre de Coubertin revived the Olympic Games for the modern age, returning the competition to Athens that summer. The first involvement of China in the Modern Olympiad was an invitation extended through the French Embassy in China to the Qing Dynasty rulers to participate in the 1896 games. This Qing government, unfamiliar with the sporting events, did not reply to the invitation. China’s first official participation in the Olympics was at the Helsinki Summer Games in 1952 as The Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC), after the civil war. Due to disputes and revolutions within the current state, China waited until 1980 to join the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, and participated in their next Summer Games four years later in Los Angeles. Sports, physical training and exercise, nonetheless, have been a rich and diversified part of both Ancient and present day China.
As I look ahead to share in the spirit and enthusiasm of 李皓宇, I look forward to watching the competition from a new vantage point. According to Gao Zhidan, deputy director of China’s General Administration of Sport, the 2018 delegation of Chinese athletes are coming to Pyeongchang with hopes and dreams of achievement. Although the 81 Chinese delegates are not contenders in every sport, Gao adds “we will try to achieve good results, make new breakthrough and impress the world with our fighting spirits.” The Chinese athletes will pursue medals in 12 events including speed skating, bobsleigh, figure skating, freestyle skiing aerials, snowboarding halfpipe and curling. Several of the Chinese fan favorites are Jin Boyang, hoping to become the first Chinese man to win an Olympic singles figure skating medal. He just returned this month from a foot injury to win the men’s title at the Four Continents Championships in Taipei. Reigning 2017 World Champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, who have never competed in the Olympics, are viewed as title contenders in pairs’ figure skating. Finally, Zhang Hong and teammate Yu Jing, gold medal champions for China in the women’s 1,000 meter four years ago, will lead the country’s hopes in speed skating events.As the day approaches for the arrival of 李皓宇, my mind fills with anticipation and excitement. Whichever events we watch, Chinese and American athletes will feel the support and cheer of two spirited spectators. I know my exchange experience will be such a rewarding time: one of welcoming and expanding my family, connecting community, cultivating relationships, sharing perspectives and gaining a continued awareness of our small world. Hopefully 李皓宇 and I will meet again, many times, and perhaps even share in another Olympic tradition, next time in Beijing for the Olympic Games of 2022. Count me in!!
Some of the information and pictures came from the following sources.