Asian Games highlights best of China and Asia

Updated 13:04, 10-Jan-2024
Asian Games highlights best of China and Asia

Editor's note: Anthony Moretti, a special commentator on current affairs for CGTN, is an associate professor at the Department of Communication and Organizational Leadership at Robert Morris University. The article reflects the author's opinions and not necessarily those of CGTN. 

The soon-to-be-completed 19th Asian Games has reaffirmed China's commitment to building peace through sport. Similarly, the country has again showed its ability to host such events in a first-rate manner.

Dating to the opening ceremonies late last month, the Chinese city of Hangzhou has displayed vitality and beauty. There, more than 12,500 athletes from more than 40 Asian nations gathered for the 19th Asian Games. Sports fans now have only until October 8 to watch elite athletes compete in individual and team events. Of course, the athletes continue to want to win a medal and earn recognition for themselves and their homelands, but the truly honorable competitors will be those who uphold the value of sport. And that commitment must continue after they leave Hangzhou and return to their home countries.

A legitimate argument can be made that China is now one of the homes of international sport. Over the past roughly 35 years, three Asian Games (1990, Beijing; 2010, Guangzhou; 2023, Hangzhou), two Olympics (2008 and 2022, Beijing) and one Universiade (2023, Chengdu) have been held on Chinese soil. In every case, world-class athletes completed their events in top-notch facilities and with the welcoming smiles of the Chinese people. That was true even during the 2022 Winter Olympics, an event that necessitated keeping competitors and private citizens socially distanced.

In case you need just one example of the Chinese people's enthusiasm for these Asian Games, more than 100 million of them participated in a virtual torch relay that culminated at the Opening Ceremony with the Games' official torch being digitally lit, a first for any sporting competition.

China ought to be applauded across the globe for preparing for these games while showing affinity toward environmental realities. Well over 50 venues are being used for the Asian Games and the upcoming Asian Para Games, but only 12 are new facilities. The others were renovated and reconstructed. 

Chinese President Xi Jinping addressed a delegation of international guests on the eve of the 2023 Asian Games, which were delayed for a year because of lingering concerns about the pandemic. He reminded his audience of the incredible potential sport has in bringing societies together. He then said that Asia retains amazing potential to be the epicenter for world peace in the coming decades. A spirit of inclusiveness will buttress this effort, he concluded. Later, the president attended the opening ceremonies and declared them open.

Asian Games highlights best of China and Asia

Those of us old enough to remember the Cold War know that international sport became a substitute for war whenever U.S. and other Western athletes competed against Soviet and Eastern Bloc athletes. Any victory by "our" men and women was seen as validating "our" political, economic and social system.

But that idea of sport and war was myopic; identifying athletes as friend or foe based simply on their nationality did not meet the standard of what sport should be. More importantly, it did nothing to thaw the freeze between the democratic and communist worlds.

American and Chinese ping-pong players had other ideas. Their simple demonstrations of friendship and inclusion at the 1971 World Table Tennis Championships drew international headlines. Within a year, U.S. President Richard Nixon made an historic trip to China; the two countries inched ever closer together and China soon began to do the same with multiple nations and respected bodies such as the United Nations.

The rest, as the cliche reminds us, is history.

Meanwhile, the 74th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China took place just days ago. The countrywide celebrations provided the chance for the Asian Games' athletes and officials to better understand China's determination to be a model of peace for the region and the world.

We can hope that more people, especially those who live in countries where China is perceived in a consistently negative way, will be able to see those same goals first hand. Multiple Chinese and other sporting officials have spoken highly of the three Asian Games held in the country, and all sport for that matter, being opportunities for increasing people-to-people contacts. Such exchanges involving college students and private citizens from all industries are essential in building a community with a shared future.

A couple of days before the Asian Games began, CGTN spoke with Oksana Chusovitina, a 48-year-old gymnast from Uzbekistan. She is competing in her fourth Asian Games, and she has also been in eight Olympics. Why continue to compete? "To demonstrate what I can do," she said.

Chusovitina's spirit of friendly competition and enjoyment of sport should be followed by many athletes, no matter the country they call home. Private citizens can and should do the same.

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at Follow @thouse_opinions on Twitter to discover the latest commentaries in the CGTN Opinion Section.) 

Search Trends