He Zhenliang: China鈥檚 Sports Diplomat

He Zhenliang: China´s Mr. Olympics

"I'm proud of my country, I'm proud of my people."

Those were the words of He Zhenliang, minutes after Beijing was announced as the winner of the Olympic bid on July 13th, 2001. Although an important day for most Chinese, it holds special significance for He Zhenliang, who more than any other individual longed for Beijing to hold the Olympic Games.

He Zhenliang is honorary president of the Chinese Olympic Committee, and a member of the International Olympic Committee. He has devoted virtually his whole life to the Olympic movement and the principles it stands for. For him personally, the holding of the Games in Beijing is more than a cause, it's a passion made all the more intense after his disappointment in 1993, when the city lost its first bid for the 2000 Olympic Games by just two votes.

But far from making him give up, the frustration of the first failure spurred him on to help Beijing in its second bid. During the bidding process, he found the main difficulty is that the outside world didn't understand how fast both economic and social progress were being achieved in China.

"They always look at China from an old angle, an old view. But according to new IOC rules, we couldn't invite IOC members to China. So the only way was to send them VCDs and magazines. And how were we to make the western press aware of the progress we had made? We invited the sports press, which is more objective, to come to China. This strategy was very useful. Besides, I'm allowed to visit our colleagues in the IOC, so I use every opportunity to exchange views with them, telling them how fast we are developing; this convinced them that China really was capable of staging a wonderful Olympic games."

As a Chinese IOC member, he acted as a bridge connecting Chinese sport with the rest of the world. He introduced the bid plan and the progress Beijing had made to his IOC colleagues. And when he heard their reactions, criticisms and suggestions, he relayed them back to people in China, and then reported back to the IOC on the measures that would be taken.

"No country is perfect. China also has its problems. An IOC member said they had some concerns, for instance the environment, and traffic. These are problems everybody is aware of because Beijing is growing so fast. My approach is not to avoid one's problems. You can just tell them, 鈥榊es, we have this problem, those are big challenges for us but we have invested a lot, we have done a lot to improve. And as for the traffic problem, I told them about the measures we would take over the coming years."

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