5 Moments that Defined China's Olympic History

By Andrew Chin, August 10, 2016

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When the French baron Pierre de Coubertin revived the Olympics for the modern age, his invitation to China’s Qing Dynasty rulers to participate in the 1896 games was met with confusion. Now over a century later, China is an undeniable Olympian power. Here are a few milestone moments along the way.

1924: Paris

China Olympics 1924 Paris

For its first official involvement with the Olympics, China sends a delegation of four tennis players. While the participants were taking part in a non-competitive demonstration sport, they did make history by representing China for the first time in the Olympics opening ceremony.

1936: Berlin

Chinese Olympic Delegation arrives in Berlin

China sends a 139-member delegation to the games, its largest yet. Pole vaulter Fu Baolu becomes the first Chinese Olympic athlete to make an Olympics final.

1984: Los Angeles

1984 Olympics

While the USSR may have boycotted, China makes its return to the Olympics after decades of non-participation with a major bang. Sharpshooter Xu Haifeng captures the country’s gold while gymnast Li Ning becomes a national star by winning three gold medals, two silver medals and one bronze. In total, China finished in a then record fourth place with 15 gold medals, eight silvers and nine bronze medals.

2000: Sydney

China at the Sydney Olympics in 2000

While Beijing may have lost the rights to host these games by just two votes, China’s athletes do the country proud with an unprecedented 28 golds, 16 silvers and 15 bronze medals for China’s first top three Olympic finish.

2008: Beijing

2008: Beijing

It’s quaint to recall the general unease around the world about the first Olympics held in China. Would the country be able to handle such a large-scale modern event? Oh, most certainly. Award-winning director Zhang Yimou oversaw a lavish opening ceremony and the entire games event has been praised as a game-changer in perceptions of the country globally.

Athletically, it remains the gold standard with China capturing an Olympic best 51 of golds along with 21 silvers and 28 bronze medals for a total of 100 medals. Zou Shiming and Zhang Xiaoping captured China’s first boxing gold medals, while gymnast Zou Kai won three gold medals.

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