The ‘East Asian’ Olympic Games: what of sustainable legacies?

Citation data:

The International Journal of the History of Sport, ISSN: 0952-3367, Vol: 29, Issue: 6, Page: 887-911

Publication Year:
Usage 2141
Abstract Views 1904
Full Text Views 126
Link-outs 111
Captures 89
Exports-Saves 76
Readers 13
Citations 10
Citation Indexes 10
Repository URL:;
Saunders, John E; Horton, Peter
Informa UK Limited
Arts and Humanities; Social Sciences; Sports Sciences
article description
Sport has proven to be an unstoppable globalising force. The Olympic Movement has come to epitomise modernisation and the extent to which Western sport has become globalised. The philosophy of Olympism, once resting upon just two pillars of Excellence in Sport and Culture has since 1994 been underpinned by a third, the Environment. All of the Olympic Games host cities now have to support a responsible concern for environmental issues and with that the very sustainability of our culture, and sport itself. They must do so by bequeathing a holistic positive legacy from their Games. This paper will analyse the three Asian Olympic Summer Olympic Games - Tokyo 1964, Seoul 1988 and Beijing 2008 - by looking at the cultural, sporting and environmental legacies each has left. The discussion of the concept of sustainability as an element of culture will embrace Littig and Griesslers idea that social sustainability is about the quality of societies expressed through the nature-society relationships and is not merely an economically based notion.1 In this paper we consider the three Asian Summer Olympic Games. Each has been related to a specific nodal point in the host country's national history, as a means of illustrating, indeed emphasising, the always unique impacts of context on event and process. Yet we propose that, locked as they are in distinct epochs and differing cultural, political and economic contexts, they are nonetheless marked in common by an Asian discourse heavily reliant upon economic and nationalistic motivations. The progressive analysis of each Games demonstrates that although each was unique, particularly in regards to the expectations stakeholders had of their Olympics, all three host nations represented themselves as modern hybrids by simultaneously demonstrating their modernised characters and emphasising their ancient cultures. The analysis demonstrates the holistic impact of these events by reference to the wide range of economic, social, cultural and sporting changes that have emerged for each host from each festival. The evaluation of the nature and significance of these legacies reemphasises the impact of the Olympic Games as a vehicle for social change and illustrates the transformative power of sport at national and global levels. © Taylor & Francis.