He Zhenliang

Week 66 (3 - 9 January 2015)

He Zhenliang, who died this week aged 85, is widely regarded as the architect behind Beijing's successful bid for – and hosting of – the 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The tributes which have been paid to Mr He this week have all referenced this as his top achievement in an illustrious career.

Yet Mr He's role in bringing the Games to China for the first time should not be narrowed down to the eight-year period in which "Mr Olympics" – as he was nicknamed in China – officially worked on the bid and then on the Organising Committee's Executive Board.

To do so fails to recognise the one-man communications campaign Mr He ran over the previous 30 years which was fundamental to re-integrating China into the Olympic Movement following the country's cession of all relations with the IOC in 1958.

In that time Mr He took on a diverse catalogue of administrative roles in Chinese and world sport – and won friends and respect for China and himself in every one of them. He moved up the ranks from Deputy Secretary General of the Chinese Gymnastics Association in the 1960s to the head of the secretariat of the All-China Sports Federation in the '70s before becoming an IOC Member in 1981. He then served on numerous IOC commissions including Olympic Solidarity, Apartheid and Olympism and IOC 2000 as well as being IOC Vice-President from 1989-1993.

His career embraced an incredible diversity which left a profound effect on IOC President Thomas Bach, who led the tributes to Mr He this week, saying, "Mr He was a man of culture and art. He was a true advocate of the social values of sport and of our Movement [...] he also helped our Movement better understand his country, its people and outstanding culture."

Mr He's life's work led China from the Olympic wilderness to hosting the Olympic Games, and in doing so he has led the Asian continent to sporting prominence as well.

He Zhenliang on the dynamics of the Olympic Movement (date unknown):

"Our responsibility is to safeguard the legitimate rights of developing nations in the international sports arena while challenging the traditional 'Europe-centric' views of the IOC. I stressed on the importance of cultural diversity, the spread of the Olympic Movement and respect for different cultures on many occasions. I'm happy that we have made some progress in these regards."

Photo: Twitter