Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Robert K. Barney


This study investigated the nature and significance of Beijing’s Olympic education

initiative from its inception seven years before the 2008 Olympic Games to 2015, seven years

after the conclusion of the great festival. As exploratory research, this study is the first to cover

this academic topic. In 2001, commensurate with Beijing’s award of the 2008 Olympic Summer

Games, a non-governmental “grassroots team” initiated an Olympic Education and Olympic

Spirit initiative in a small sample of Beijing’s primary and secondary schools. The team was led

by a Canadian-trained professor, Dongguang Pei. In 2005, impressed with Pei’s and his team’s

initiative, and following the International Olympic Committee’s guidelines for host cities

mounting Olympic Education initiatives, the Chinese government endorsed and supported an

Olympic Education Legacy initiative called the Olympic Action Plan. The Chinese government’s

support of disseminating Olympic knowledge to 400 million Chinese youth nationwide presented

Chinese schools, the IOC, and the world with a model for a comprehensive, vigorous, and what

some have judged a highly successful public and private school Olympic education program.

Compared with the unique Olympic education program presented throughout the seven

year period before and during the 2008 Olympic Games, in the seven years following (2008-2015),

the carefully and energetically-built program of Olympic Education deteriorated badly. The

Chinese government abandoned its leadership and enterprise in sustaining Olympic Education.

Based on the investigation sample, “Olympic education activities” in the program’s “model

schools” deteriorated abruptly after 2008. Funding, Olympic Education teacher training, and

international school partner associations ceased. On-site observation and interviews resulted in the

finding that Yangfangdian Central Primary school, the pioneer school of Beijing’s Olympic

education, remained the only model school which retained Olympic education activity after the


2008 Games. During the post-Games period, Beijing’s Olympic education was replaced by new

government approaches to education. This study needs to be understood within China’s unique

social, educational and political climate. On the one hand, a centralized political system ensured

that Olympic education be implemented under extremely powerful organizational orders. These

orders guaranteed not only financial and human resources support, but also the climate for

Olympic education to expand extremely quickly through multiple administrative levels. On the

other hand, and correspondingly, the disappearance of Olympic education after the Games was,

most certainly, due chiefly to the government’s withdrawal of initiative and support. It is a

justifiable conclusion that the Chinese centralized system, though enabling the program at its

outset and early development periods, in the end rapidly constrained the entire initiative.