First Chinese Olympian’s son starts Olympic torch relay

July 17th, 2008 - 1:44 pm ICT by IANS  

Shenyang (China), July 17 (Xinhua) Liu Hongtu, whose father Liu Changchun was China’s first Olympian, started the Beijing Olympic torch relay here Thursday. “I am passing my father’s dream of Olympics today,” said Hongtu.

Changchun was the only athlete in China’s first Olympics at the 1932 Los Angeles Games. He took part in the 100 and 200 metres but failed to qualify for the finals. Four years later, he took part in Berlin with some other Chinese athletes, but failed to bag any medal and even didn’t have enough money to return back to country.

“Over 76 years, from the Los Angeles Olympic Games at which my father represented China alone, to the Beijing Olympic Games, China has undergone many changes,” said Hongtu. “The evolution of Chinese Olympic history proved that only with the prosperity of the motherland can the athletes achieve good performance.”

“I think one of the most important reasons that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) chose Beijing as the Olympic host is that China has become stronger. But in 1932, the government didn’t support my father and only with the help of private sponsoring could he afford the ship fare and other costs of the trip,” he added.

Changchun could hardly find a job and had to live a poor life after he returned to China from Berlin. Later he became a coach after the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949. When the IOC reinstated the legal status of the Chinese Olympic Committee (COC) in 1979, Changchun was appointed vice chairman of COC. But he didn’t live long enough to see Chinese athletes win the first Olympic gold medal at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984.

Changchun’s regret can be somewhat made up by his two sons. Besides Hongtu, his brother Hongliang also took part in the torch relay four years back in Athens.

“It’s my father’s regret that he didn’t see the Chinese national flag flying at the Olympics and didn’t see an Olympics Games held on his motherland. But my brother and I have fulfilled his dream with the Olympic torches,” said Hongtu.

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