Mark Dreyer | Bolstering National Pride Through Sports Performance on the Olympic Global Stage

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Topics Discussed and Key Points:

● The economic, cultural, and athletic impact that the 2008 Beijing Olympics had on China

● China’s reaction to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

● China’s expectations for the 2022 Winter Olympics and future games

● Popular and not-as popular sports in China

● The intersection of sports, politics, and business in China’s fitness industry

● China’s growing interest in health and fitness

● How China is investing in infrastructure to aid in the development of the sports industry

● Team sports versus individual sports in China

Episode Summary:

Today on The Negotiation, we speak with Mark Dreyer, a China-based media and sports professional. Mark has been based in China since shortly before the 2008 Olympics, where he has worked with several media outlets, both domestic and international.

Mark is the Marketing and Communications Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in China and the Founder of China Sports Insider and the China Correspondent for SportsBusiness Group.

Asked how the 2008 Summer Olympics influenced China economically, Mark says that, while the event itself was not profitable for the country, the Olympics cemented China’s dramatic rise in the 2000s as a major player on the world stage.

Culturally, and in the sports world specifically, the nation gained a massive amount of soft power as a result of their virtually flawless handling of the Olympics—not to mention having won 51 gold medals—showing the world a side of China previously unseen.

Mark gives his thoughts on the growth of the Chinese sports industry as a vehicle for bolstering national pride. He shares how this intersection of sports, politics and business manifests itself, such as in the famously “manufactured” athletic prowess of NBA star Yao Ming.

However, Mark believes that the top-down nature of Chinese society is limiting the country’s potential in the world of sports. With regards to soccer, for instance, instead of allowing a “grassroots” movement to nurture a competent player base over a decade or two, the Chinese leadership would rather search for ways to create Olympic-level athletes in a matter of a few years.

Mark believes that the key to creating a thriving and enviable sports industry in China is to make sports something that people voluntarily do for fun and because they simply love it, as opposed to the current culture of handpicking and grooming promising players to compete solely for national pride.

In his words: “How do we get people to play sports in a way that they actually, genuinely want to?”

Key Quotes:

“China is very, very good at the summer games, less so at the Winter Olympics. [...] Ten of their 13 gold medals are in short track speed skating. As you’d expect, that is where there is a lot of interest for the Chinese people when it comes to the Winter Olympics.”

“When your country—when your athletes are winning gold medals—it does make it that much more exciting for your country. [...] That patriotism, that nationalism is more of a factor in China than it would be in other countries.”

“China has always struggled to create grassroots sports. Soccer is probably the prime example. Everything here in China is top-down. It is a top-down society. To have success in a sport like soccer, you need to build from the bottom up. That contradiction is, in large part, what has prevented China from becoming a global soccer power as it has many, many times declared it wants to be.”

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