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Case Study On Planning behind the success story of China at Olympics



July 2013
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The Olympic Games is considered to be the world’s prestigious and major international sporting event with more than 200 nations participating in the event. The Games are held biennially, with summer and Winter Olympic games at four years interval. This case study analyses China`s rise to glory at the Olympics.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) first competed at the Olympic Games in 1952, at the Summer Games in Helsinki, Finland. Due to the dispute over the political status of China, the PRC did not participate in the Olympics again until the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, United States. Their first appearance at the Summer Olympic Games after 1952 was the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, United States.

In the 1988 Summer Olympics at Seoul, South Korea, China finished 11th in the medal standings. However, sporting in China rapidly improved, finishing 4th at the 1992 Summer Olympics at Barcelona, Spain. In subsequent Summer Olympics, China has always finished at 4th or better ranking, culminating in the first rank in the 2008 Summer Olympics, which it hosted at Beijing.

Comparison of the summer Olympics medal tally of China and USA in the recent years:

Year Country Gold Silver Bronze Total Rank
1988 – Seoul USA 36 31 27 94 3
China 5 11 12 28 11
1992 – Barcelona USA 37 34 37 108 2
China 16 22 16 54 4
1996 – Atlanta USA 44 32 25 101 1
China 16 22 12 50 4
2000 – Sydney USA 40 24 33 97 1
China 28 16 15 59 3
2004 – Athens USA 35 39 29 103 1
China 32 17 14 63 2
2008 – Beijing USA 36 38 36 110 2
China 51 21 28 100 1
How did China achieve this amazing jump from the 11th place in the world to the 1 st place in the medal tally in just 2 decades? How did China manage to surpass a superpower like USA in a short span of time?Although China had long been associated with martial arts, sports in China today consists of a variety of competitive sports played in China and around the world. Traditional Chinese

culture regarded physical fitness as an important aspect and since the 20th century, a large number of sports, both western and traditional are popularly played in China.

Prior to 1980`s, the Chinese sport governance system was a huge state run enterprise with the government funding and overseeing the sport affairs. In 1995, China decided to transform the sports system in the nation. The plan for Olympic glories were formulated and released as early as 1995.

The plan outlined 3 goals.

  1. Restructuring the system in elite sport training and management
  1. Enhancing the elite athlete delivery pipeline system
  1. Maintaining the nation`s leading position in the international sport arena especially at the Olympics

Courses of action taken towards achieving the goals

  1. National Fitness Program: 

In 1995, the state council came up with the “National Fitness Program”. The objective of the program was to improve the health and overall physical condition of the general population especially the children and the youth. The guidelines of the program were to

a) Encourage everyone, especially the children and the adolescents, to engage in at least one sporting event everyday

b) Encourage to learn at least two ways of keeping fit

c) Encourage to have a health examination every year

The program aimed that by 2010, about 40% of the China`s population would be regularly participating in physical activity. In this 15 year long program, the government built about 6,20,000 gymnasiums and stadiums across China, most of them open to and widely used by the public. Outdoor fitness centres were installed in urban communities in parks, schoolyards and public squares.

With the increase in nationwide fitness activities, people`s outlook on life has also changed. In many medium sized cities, spending money in pursuit of good health has become trendy.

  1. Restructuring the sports governance system

The country`s state sports commission was restructured to the State General Administration of sports in 1998. The SGAS is closely tied to the All China Sports Federation and the Chinese Olympic committee and responsible for mid and long range sports development plans for China.

SGAS is responsible for

    • Creating a nation wide sports network
    • Promoting physical activity and exercise participation in schools, local and regional communities
    • Organizing national sporting events
    • Organizing international sport events in China
    • Enforcing anti drug measures
    • Liaising and cooperating with Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan
    • Supporting research into the development of sport
    • Implementing regulations governing the sport industry, sport market, and sport related business activities
    • Implementing national physical training standards and supervising public health in coordination with the Ministry of Health
    • Overseeing sport activities with foreign associations and teams, and sport-related cooperation and communication with countries and regions outside China

State General Admin of Sports

  1. Chinese National Games (CNG).

To fulfil the nation’s Olympic strategies and ambition, the SGAS strategized to sponsor for the Chinese National Games (CNG). It is modelled after the modern Olympic Games and it is the largest and most important sport extravaganza in China.

Each city or town sends a team to compete in district level competitions and each district sends a team to compete in province level competitions. Each Province in turn sends a team to compete in the CNG. The preparation for the competition at the CNG allows the government to cultivate elite Chinese athletes for major international sporting events.

  1. Selection and training of the athlete

The success of Chinese Olympic ambition lies in a unique system of selecting and training elite athletes. The Schools in China identifies potential performers in each sport. The students who are selected for their athletic talent are trained exclusively in spare time sport schools. The sport schools are boarding schools where the Olympic hopefuls have academic classes in the mornings and engage in rigorous sport training sessions in the afternoon. There are about 3000 such sport schools in China. These sports schools ensure the continuous production of elite sportsmen in the system.

  1. Professionalization of the sports

Before 1990s, sports in China were completely government funded. Situation started changing after 1994. Professional leagues were formed, club system came into existence paving way for a healthier remuneration for the sportsmen. Commercialization was brought in through ticket sales, advertising, commercial matches, television broadcasts etc

Chinese athletes were allowed to train abroad, engage foreign coaches and join international sports clubs.

Though both India and China were blessed with more or less an equal population, China with 1.36 billion and India with 1.22 billion, China achieved a massive feat of standing tall at Olympics, which India could not.

It is a point to think about and act.

Discussion Points:

  1. How did China approach the six basic questions of planning?
  2. Is it a strategic plan or an operational plan and why?
  3. Is it a proactive plan or a reactive plan and why?
  4. Why is planning necessary and how did it help China to have an edge over other countries?
  5. What are the elements other than planning required to achieve the objective?
  6. How do you think that you can plan for your short term objective of scoring well in your MBA exams and the long term objective of flying high in your career?

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