The key organizational structure present in China—and in all successful and progressive sport nations except the United States—is the presence of a governmental agency that develops sport in the same way it supports other national policies such as improvement of the nation’s health and education. Governments across the globe increasingly provide financial and methodological support to national sport governing bodies, clubs, educational institutions and other organizations to develop both elite athletes and mass or recreational sport.
If the United States is to achieve these goals, the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition should consider enlisting the cooperation of federal health, education and other departments as well as sport organizations. Without adopting the best of Chinese and international sport management methods, America has little chance of stopping China’s domination in the international sporting arena; the parallels to its prior pursuit of the former Soviet Union are eerily similar.
It will take the country’s leaders to make this happen. President Obama, like President Kennedy, has progressive views on the advancement of health care, science, education, and sport. Conservative political powers, however, may again be too strong to balance public and private support of sport. If history repeats itself, though, we may be able to count on the further development of American sport being—at the very least—accelerated by China’s challenge, just as it was in the past by the athletic challenge from the Soviet Union. The Olympic spectacle can only become more dramatic when different political systems clash for global dominance.
Peter Smolianov, who received his university degrees in the USSR, the United States and Australia, is associate professor of sport and movement science at Salem State University. His research has appeared in 40 book chapters, journal articles and conference papers across the world. He most recently authored a chapter on comparative high performance sport models in the book Managing High Performance Sport (Routledge).