Published: 14:17, June 23, 2024
China's Olympic journey: From humble beginnings to global glory
By Xinhua
This file photo taken on Aug 8, 2008 shows the fireworks in the shape of Olympic rings during the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games held in the National Stadium, also known as the Bird's Nest, in north Beijing, China. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

BEIJING - With the Paris Olympics just about one month away, global sports fans are turning their focus toward the excitement and glamor of the Games. A perennial hot topic is which country will dominate the gold medal race.

China has consistently finished in the top three positions in the medals table since the 2000 Sydney Olympics, and this trend is expected to continue in Paris. However, the journey of the nation, once referred to as the "Sick Man of East Asia," over the past century is remarkable.

Between the 1930s and late 1940s, Chinese athletes participated in the Olympic Games three times, leaving behind a challenging history.

This file photo taken on Aug 4, 2008 shows a statue of Liu Changchun, China's first Olympic athlete, at the center of the Olympic Square in Dalian, Northeast China's Liaoning province. (PHOTO / XINHUA) 

In 1932, Liu Changchun was the sole athlete from China to compete in the Los Angeles Olympics, funded by donations. He was eliminated in the preliminary heats of the 100m and 200m sprints but was hailed as a national hero for his historic achievement and patriotism.

In 1936, a delegation of over 100 Chinese went to Berlin, with some of the funding raised by a football team's performance tour in Southeast Asia, but still returned without medals. In 1948, 33 Chinese athletes participated in five events in London, without winning any places.

The People's Republic of China made its Olympic debut at the 1952 Summer Games in Helsinki.

Since the resumption of PR China's lawful seat in the IOC in 1979, Chinese athletes have had more opportunities to compete internationally. When shooter Xu Haifeng claimed China's first-ever Olympic gold medal at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984, few could have predicted the transformative impact his victory would have on Chinese sports.

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This file photo taken on Feb 4, 2022 shows the National Stadium, also known as the "Bird's Nest", prior to the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, capital of China. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

Following Xu's historic win, China invested heavily in sports infrastructure, talent development programs, and international sporting events.

At Sydney 2000, China concluded its impressive run with 59 medals, including 28 golds, finishing third overall, just behind the United States and Russia.

At Athens 2004, 21-year-old Liu Xiang sent waves of excitement back home by winning the men's 110m hurdles in record time. Liu made history by securing China's first gold medal in an Olympic sprint event, and his time of 12.91 seconds equaled the then-world record.

In this file photo dated Aug 25, 2004, China's Liu Xiang (left) clears a hurlde during a heat of the men's 110 metres hurdles at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

A defining moment came in 2008 when Beijing hosted the Summer Olympics, showcasing China's ability to organize a world-class sporting event on an unprecedented scale. The "Bird's Nest" stadium and the "Water Cube" became iconic symbols of China's ambition and prowess, leaving an enduring legacy in Olympic history.

China's athletes delivered a stellar performance on home soil in 2008, topping the medal table with 48 gold medals. From diving to table tennis, gymnastics to weightlifting, Chinese athletes dominated the competition, solidifying their status as global sporting superstars.

In this file photo dated Feb 14, 2022, Gu Ailing in action during women's freeski slopestyle qualification event for the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Zhangjiakou, north China's Hebei province. (PHOTO / XINHUA)

The Chinese capital basked in Olympic glory again in 2022 when it became the world's first city to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics.

The 2022 Winter Olympics spurred the ambitious target to attract 300 million Chinese to winter sports, promoting healthier lifestyles and creating many opportunities for local and regional development.

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This year's Olympic Day carries the theme "Let's Move". With more people across the country voluntarily taking up sports, China is expected to continue to impress at the Olympics for many years to come.