The 2008 Beijing Olympics were ardently sought, lavishly staged and hugely successful, despite intense scrutiny, speculation and setbacks. Amplified by modern media, most controversies revolved around China’s political repression, epitomised by Tibet brutality. Resultant protests threatened boycott and terror, putting internal cohesion, national image and Olympic dream at stake.
This study argues that despite controversies and setbacks, China successfully used the Beijing Olympics as a tool of public diplomacy with a positive impact on its politics, economics and environment. The Games helped China to portray a successful national brand image as an emerging global power with growing influence, despite some problem areas. Hosting the Games was a consequence of China’s economic success, showcase of remarkable achievements, catalyst for Beijing’s modernisation and signal for more business.
China relied on state and economic might, organisational and sporting excellence, nationalist and shrewd diplomacy to avoid an Olympic embarrassment. Bolstered by economic success, China’s PD is reinforced and undercut by authoritarianism, ethnic diversity and controversial trade and defence policies. Yet, global status demands greater accountability. Good Olympic impressions would diminish if the major issues spotlighted elude resolution. As PD becomes increasingly indispensable in the management of external affairs, China’s Olympic experience offers wider lessons.