George H. Braithwaite, former chairman of the United States of America Table Tennis (USATT) National Leagues, was overcome with emotion when talking about his expectations of the Beijing Olympic Games.
"China has every reason to run the Olympics successfully, simply because the country has made so many things miraculous happen over the past three decades," said Braithwaite, who was member of the U.S. team on the historic Pingpong Diplomacy trip to China in 1971.
"China has made every effort possible to make a really meaningful presentation of the Games," he said, adding the fact that China has turned itself into a major world power through hard work over the past 30 years has already shown to the world that "it's going to be one of the best Olympics ever held."
In April, 1971, the U.S. national table tennis team was playing at the world championship in Nagoya, Japan, when Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai invited the team to China.
Four days later, nine players, team officials and two spouses became the first official American visitors to China since 1949, the year the People's Republic of China was founded.
"Ever since the two countries tied together diplomatically, bilateral relations have been smooth and stable," he said. "I bet almost all American people are looking forward to a successful Beijing Olympic Games as they know a sound bilateral relationship benefits the peoples in our two countries."
It is crucial to maintain peace and stability in the world and Olympics provide such an occasion where people can lay aside their differences and seek common ground, Braithwaite said.
"We have to separate the two (politics and Olympics) at least in the period the Olympics are being held in China because I believe it is another stepping stone to establish very good relationship among nations all around the world," he added.
"Let's give the world a chance to recuperate and rebuild itself," he said.
Pingpong served as a sport that was credited with warming American diplomatic relations with China -- the first step in opening a country that was diplomatically cut off from the West, Braithwaite said, adding that young athletes could also help bridge differences among nations.
Braithwaite said he was last in Beijing in 2006 and was deeply impressed by the "tremendous" changes in the city. "Many people have never been to Beijing, and still some other people even may have prejudice, but I bet almost all who have visited Beijing will change their fixed ideas about China."
"They will of course gain a new understanding of the Olympics after it is successfully held in Beijing," he added.
Braithwaite highly commended the decision made by U.S. President George W. Bush to attend the opening ceremony, saying it is a "very, very excellent decision."
"When you think of the hundreds or even thousands of athletes who have worked four years or eight years to get to the level of competence that they are right now, you may think that he (President Bush) has done a very good thing and made a very wise decision in deciding to attend the opening ceremony," he said.
"It would also add to the impact of the Olympic Games," he said.
Braithwaite expressed the hope that all heads of state show up at the Games so as to cheer for the athletes from their respective countries and show their respect for the Olympic spirit as well.
"We Pingpong players have helped change the relations between the U.S. and China, which will further help all participating countries improve their relations through interaction of young athletes on the platform that Beijing has built for them," he said.
(Xinhua News Agency July 31, 2008)