The Spread and Promotion of Humanistic Values by the Beijing Olympic Games
Vice President of Renmin University of China
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is my privilege and honor to have this opportunity to share my research results on the Olympic Games with you on behalf of Chinese scholars. Over the last four years, many legacies of the Beijing Olympic Games have been explored, promoted and transformed to become new engines for driving the country’s economic, social and cultural development. Of these legacies, the humanistic values inspired and influenced by Chinese culture and the Olympic Spirit are the most valuable treasures and legacies. These values have been integrated into the Beijing culture and the Chinese culture. I would like to explore the spread and promotion of these values from the following three perspectives:
I. Nurturing an open and progressive social character
Social character springs from the experiences, emotions, will and environment of a social group, and major historical events have significant impact on the shift and maturity of social character. The Beijing Olympic Games is held against the backdrop of three decades of reform and opening up as well as the country’s ongoing economic globalization, which is helpful to cultivate a healthier, more mature and more open national psyche and social character.
In our national narrative, hosting the Olympic Games is “a centuries-old dream,” and as individuals, we have transformed the grand dream into an attitude toward life, our social temperament and our values. This also impacts and improves our lifestyle and social involvement. For us Chinese, the Games are both a sports gala and a cultural carnival, nurturing both body and soul. During the Games, Renmin University of China, with which I work, proposed the “Humanistic Olympics, China’s Demeanor” initiative to Beijing residents, calling on them to show fraternity ----- to smile at every guest; respect ----- to pay tribute to each nation’s national flag; passion ----- to cheer for athletes’ every effort; grace ----- to appreciate every moment in the process; inclusiveness ----- to acknowledge every difference; and civic behavior ----- to take away every bit of garbage or litter. This spirit was seen at the Olympic events and has been assimilated into every aspect of our life. Just as the Olympic Charter says, “Olympism is a philosophy of life, exalting and combining in a balanced whole the qualities of body, will and mind.”
In addition to exciting events and dazzling achievements, the greatest legacies left by the event are elements of social character such as self-confidence, happiness, openness, equality, responsibility and progressivity, which are inherently good traits. At the individual level, my personal experience serves as a perfect example: at the end of 2008, a fitness center opened in our community, at its entrance inscribed, “Integrate the Olympic spirit and culture into your community and create a fresh lifestyle,” the words of Mr. He Zhenliang. These words moved me greatly, and since then, I have been sticking to my exercise regimen in almost all weather conditions, putting aside my usual excuses of heavy workload or pressure and adopting a new lifestyle. Up until now, the center has attracted over 4,000 members. This is the epitome of the post-Games life and psyche of people in our communities. The pursuit of health, happiness, and the open and diversified vision inspired by the Games has been gradually assimilated into the social character of Beijing and even that of China as a whole.
II. Leading urban spirit and contemporary themes
The Olympic Games have always enhanced the host cities’ conviction, style, temperament and taste, and have given them new vitality and charm. Beijing has been richly nurtured and thus has attained a heightened spirit. When the curtains of the Games closed, Beijing transformed the Green, High-tech and Humanistic Olympics into concepts for urban development. Subsequently “patriotism, innovation, inclusion and social morals” were adopted as the spirit of the city. These values highlighted the features of its culture, and embodied the fusion and interaction of Chinese culture with the Olympic spirit. According to Immanuel Kant, urban life lacking in culture is blind, and culture isolated from urban life is empty. After the Games, Beijing worked hard to explore its character and spirit, so as to make its outward atmosphere and image rooted in the spirit and humanistic values of the city.
The greatness of the Olympic Games and the goodness of a city lie in their spirit.The Olympic Games pushed Beijing to go higher and to see farther, to examine and transcend itself in top-level design and in building its spiritual home, and to develop the capital city with an enterprising spirit and a sincere humanistic ideal. “Humanistic Beijing,” which evolved from “Humanistic Olympics,” summarizes the “soft” values of Beijing: cultural prosperity, morality, vigorous temperament,as well as the benchmark “hard” values: economic prosperity, scientific progress and fine environment. Thus, “Humanistic Beijing” mirrors a dream city yearned and pursued by all its citizens.The dream promises an ideal of urban development, which cares for and respects basic human rights, strives for a vision of a prosperous, democratic and civilized city where people live in harmony with one another, with the society and with the nature.
After the Games, other Chinese cities, such as Shanghai, Tianjin and Dongguan, have invariably refined and announced their respective “spirit of the city.” This coincides with the social development theme of post-Olympics era in China, namely to build a “cultural China” in addition to enhancing its economic strength, and to create a society of balanced material and spiritual prosperity. In fact, personal spiritual growth, shaping social character and building an urban spiritual home have consistent underlying values: individuals’ pursuit of dignity, happiness, elegance, prominence and transcendence; a city’s pursuit of diversity, virtue, inclusiveness, innovation and harmony. All these eventually point to the ideal of achieving humankind’s all-round development.
III. Boosting volunteer spirits
Some 100,000 Games volunteers, 400,000 city volunteers and one million social service volunteers worked for the Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games. Some media reported that the expressions on the volunteers’ faces represented the expressions of the Beijing Olympic Games and of the country. On December 5, 2008, Asteroid No. 18639 was named the “Star of Olympic Volunteers” in honor of their devotion to the Games. This decision was approved by the IAU Committee for Small-Body Nomenclature and published in Asteroid Report, a magazine of the International Astronomical Union (IAU). Many Olympic volunteers continued their voluntary services after the Games, and according to statistics, 68.9% of them participated in various volunteer services. More importantly, they have become messengers of volunteer spirit for the country, and like a light that kindles others, and they have inspired more and more people to join them. Beijing volunteers advocate that everybody can provide any voluntary service at any time. In respond to this call, they have launched the spirit everywhere, from the Beijing Olympic Games, to Shenzhen Universiade and Shanghai Expo, and from urban communities to poor mountainous areas.
Following the Games, the number of volunteers in China has been soaring, specialized volunteer groups are being organized, and the volunteer service system is gradually improved. The central organization, Beijing Volunteer Federation, was established, which developed a real-name volunteer registration system. At present, over 930,000 young volunteers have been registered, and some 3,085 volunteer groups have been established. These volunteers have devoted their time and talent to the society, and thanks to their efforts, we have seen participation, compassion and public service evolve into a trend as well as a common rational choice joining moral ideals and social realities. In a sense, volunteer service nurtures new citizens, new ethnics and a new social value system.
The motto of the London Olympic Games is “Inspire a generation.” The Beijing Games has proved that this motto has ideal and practical significance. The volunteers were actively involved in and sincerely dedicated to the Games. On this open platform of social-historical significance, they have displayed, trained and transcended themselves. The new generation calmly maintains the balance between personal development, character improvement and helping others, and societal responsibility, showing that they can handle the relationship between self-devotion and institutional development in a professional and rational manner. From my perspective, connecting one’s fate with that of others and aligning moral ideals and institutional arrangements are the pillar and driving force of the healthy and sustained development of modern volunteer service.
The Olympic movement leaves humans with beautiful and immense spiritual legacies, and cities that cherish and properly utilize this gift will benefit in indescribable ways.