Bryn Miller ’19 interviews journalist George Vecsey about U.S.-China relations in the Olympics

Medal ceremony for the women's 50 meter rifle at the 1984 Olympics

China's Wu Xiaoxuan of China won the gold medal in the 50 meter rifle at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, defeating Ulrike Holmer of West Germany and Wanda Jewel of the United States. (Photo by Ken Hackman, U.S. Air Force)

Journalist George Vecsey, a former New York Times sports columnist, has covered all the Summer Olympic games from Los Angeles in 1984 to Bejing in 2008, making him an excellent source for insight about the relationship between U.S. athletes and those from rising power China.

And interestingly, that relationship has evolved to be much different than the athletic cold war that marked competition between the U.S. and the Soviet Union in an earlier Olympic era, Vescey told Bryn Miller ’19 in a Q&A published on the Keck Center's Asia Experts Forum.

“I think some of it has to do with the geopolitical situation in the world,” Vecsey said. “There’s tension between America and China; you can pick that up in our own political campaign. Some will say, ‘China’s eating our lunch.’ However, I don’t know that athletes would think that with relation to sports. As world level athletes, I don’t think geopolitics are the first thing on their mind. Olympic sports have become so commercial that the athletes from all sides are more like hothouse plants. They’re thriving in a different environment from a normal human being.

“Although the Chinese were part of the same ideological bloc as the Soviets, there was never the same fear and animosity between the Chinese and the Americans as there was between the Soviets and the Americans. When the Soviets didn’t go to Los Angeles in 1984, the Chinese did go – they just weren’t a part of that tension.”

Read the full interview on the Asia Experts Forum.



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