There is no doubt that historically that people’s expectations of the Olympics differ according to whether they are held in a developed or a developing country. In developed countries people are most interested in their significance for city planning, including transport, the environment and city infrastructure, but when the Olympics are held in a developing country, apart from these factors, political expectations also come into play, such as political openness, transparency and democratisation. This is nothing new and will always be so.
It is hard to imagine that a huge international event like the Olympics could make a vast country like China immediately launch urgent political changes and democratisation. But on the other hand, it is also hard to imagine that, as some western commentators have claimed, the success of the games will strengthen the Chinese government’s authoritarianism.
Holding the Olympics in other developing countries promoted political change in those countries, including China’s neighbours Japan and South Korea. From a fairly long-term viewpoint China can be no exception to this, which is to say having successfully held the Olympics China cannot avoid the questions of political change and democratisation.
Although the question is being widely debated whether the Chinese political system can be democratised, but the question in fact is no longer whether democratisation is necessary but whether it will be a peaceful or a violent process. How to bring about stable democracy is the key question that China faces in the prolonged historical process of political reform.