He Zhenliang: China's Mr. Olympics
He Zhenliang's profile
He Zhenliang: honorary chairman of China's Olympic Committee, advisor of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG). He was elected a member of the International Olympic Committee in 1981, a member of the Executive Committee of the International Olympic Committee in 1985 and vice-chairman of the International Olympic Committee in 1989.
December 29, 1929 in Shangyu County, Zhejiang Province
Married to Liang Lijuan; one son (He Yang), one daughter (He Zhen)
Electrical Engineering degree from Aurore University (Shanghai); Professor of Philology and International Affairs; Doctor Honoris Causa
Chinese, French, English
Engineer; Vice-Minister; Member of Standing Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (1993-1998); Vice-Minister in charge of the State Commission on Physical Education and Sport of the People's Republic of China (1985-1994)
Table tennis, tennis, swimming, football, basketball, golf
Secretary General of the NOC (1982-1986), Vice-President (1986-1989), then President (1989-1994), now Honorary President; Advisor to the National Sports Federation of China (1997-); President of the Chinese Athletics Association (1992-1996) and of the Chinese Rowing Association (1986-); President of the Asian Rowing Association (1990-1994)
Life-time Achievement Award, more prestigious award in sport in People's Republic of China (2002-)
Member of the Executive Board (1985-1989, 1994-1998, 1999-2003); Vice-President of the IOC (1989-1993); Chairman of the Cultural Commission (1995-1999) and of the Commission for Culture of Olympic Education (2000-); Vice-Chairman of the Sport for All Commission (1985-1987); member of the following Commissions: Olympic Solidarity (1981-1987), Olympic Movement (1985-1999), Apartheid and Olympism (1989-1992), Council of the Olympic Order (1989-1993), Preparation of the XII Olympic Congress (1990-1993), Study of the Centennial Olympic Congress, Congress of Unity (1994-1996), "IOC 2000" (1999), IOC 2000 Reform Follow-up (2002-)
"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, 'Yes, 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."
He says most IOC members are highly respected people, and with them, a frank and honest attitude is always the best way.
"One influential IOC member told me 'I have to tell you frankly that last time when I voted for Sydney instead of Beijing, it was because I was a little concerned about political stability in China, as your senior Leader Deng Xiaoping was very old. I didn't know what would happen after Deng. And in my continent there are many former socialist countries that have problems. So I was concerned about China, but what happened in China during these eight years showed that I was wrong, so this time I will vote for Beijing.' So with the IOC members, you should adopt a very frank and honest attitude. Don't avoid the problems. Yes, we have problems but we will take this measure and that measure, and we'll make sure that this problem will be solved before the Games."
Continued efforts were finally rewarded with good results. When Beijing won the bid, He Zhenliang was so excited that he was moved to tears. He started his career in the Olympic cause in the 1950s, and has been working in this field for half a century.
"When I started to work for the COC, our relation with the IOC encountered difficulties because of the problem of Taiwan. So we strived for almost 30 years to restore our legitimate seat in the Olympic movement. So you can see how happy we were when the problem was solved."
He Zhenliang says he loves his job and loves the Olympic cause.
"It's really very challenging but also very exciting. Challenging because we have to face all kinds of problems, sports, economic and political; but also it's exciting because when you see your efforts have achieved good results, you really feel happy. For me, what's important is that I have done my utmost for my country."
Presentation for bidding the 2008 Olympic games
He Zhenliang's Opening Speech
On behalf of my country and of the Chinese people nurturing fervent hopes about this session today, we have the honor, for a second time, of presenting Beijing's bid for the Olympic Games.
Eight years have already gone by since our first bid for the 2000 Games. During this period of time, my country has made tremendous strides on the road to modernization and social progress. As the Evaluation Commission has indicated, Beijing has the capacity to organize an excellent Olympic Games which will hand down a unique heritage to China and to sport.
To my right, here is the Beijing's delegation who will present to you our bid.
He Zhenliang's Closing Speech
No matter which decision you make today, it will be recorded in history. However one decision will certainly serve to make history. With your decision here today, you can move the world and China toward an embrace of friendship through sport that will benefit all mankind.
Almost 50 years ago, I took part in the Olympic Games for the first time; it was in Helsinki. Since then, I have become deeply attached to the Olympic spirit. And me, like so many of my countrymen, I am convinced that the Olympic values are universal and the Olympic flame lights up the way of progress for all humanity.
It has been a dream of mine throughout my career to find a way to bring the Olympic Games to China. I, too, want my countrymen and women to experience the eternal beauty of the Olympic dream in our homeland.
By voting for Beijing, you will bring the Games for the first time in the history of Olympism to a country with one fifth of the world's population and give to this billion people the opportunity to serve the Olympic Movement with creativity and devotion.
Dear colleagues, the message you send today may signal the beginning of a new era of global unity.
If you honor Beijing with the right to host the 2008 Olympic Games, I can assure you, my dear colleagues, that, in seven years from now, Beijing will make you proud of the decision you make here today.
(Xinhua News Agency October 9, 2003)