Friday, April 27, 2007
China's The One
Today the Beijing Olympic organizing committee announced a movie called "The One" will be made about China's first athlete to participate in the Games 75 years ago.
Liu Changchun was a sprinter who competed in the 1932 Summer Games in Los Angeles. Although he didn't get past the preliminary heats, the current Olympic organizing committee is hoping to capitalize on this piece of history in the run-up to the games.
But Liu's story is far from glorious -- it was more like a test of his will to survive.
He was born in Dalian, in China's northeastern Liaoning Province and he was a star sprinter at the time. However, in 1931, the Japanese occupied Manchuria and established a puppet state called Manchukuo.
The Japanese wanted Liu to represent Manchukuo in the Olympics, but in an interview with a Chinese newspaper, Liu said he was determined to represent China, not the Japanese-declared state.
A patriotic general by the name of Zhang Xueliang heard about Liu and agreed to pay for his boat trip from Shanghai to Los Angeles.
It took Liu a month to get there by boat, and three days after he arrived, he competed on the track. For the 100m and 200m preliminary heats, he came in 11.1 seconds and 22.1 seconds respectively.
While he was there, he gained a lot of attention for being the first Chinese in the Olympics.
But after the Games were over, Liu spent all of Zhang's allowance, of about US$1,000 at the time. So Liu had to canvass donations from the local Chinese community in Los Angeles to buy a ticket back home.
When Liu came back to China and was virtually unrecognized for his efforts and taught physical education. He died in 1983.
Today his son was at the press conference, but he wasn't caught up in the excitement over which of the three relatively unknown actors would play his father.
We asked Liu Hongliang if his father talked about his Olympic experiences. He said at the time he didn't see much of his father when he was a child because when he came back to China, the Japanese wanted to arrest him for not representing Manchukuo. So his father was in hiding. When the family moved away from the puppet state, they were still monitored.
At times when Liu spoke, he wiped tears from his eyes recalling when the family went to Nanjing, his father couldn't get a job and they were destitute. "We suffered a lot when I was a child," he said.
He added his father advised him not to go into sports because it didn't get him anywhere. The younger Liu is now an academic, involved in research in environmental sciences, technology and engineering.
Liu's pleased a film will be made about his father, glad that he gets some recognition albeit 75 years later.