University of Pittsburgh
July 16, 2008

Pitt Professors, Alumni Available to Discuss Olympic Games and What They Mean to China and the World

Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH-The following University of Pittsburgh faculty are available to comment on topics surrounding the Olympics in Beijing, China.

China as a Rising Power

"The Beijing Games will mark China's efforts to signal its supremacy as the rising power of the twenty-first century, much the same way the 1936 Berlin Olympics were Hitler's attempt to capture the world's imagination and the 1988 Seoul Olympics South Korea's coming out party as a modern economic power," says Rob Ruck, Pitt history faculty member and sports historian.

According to Ruck, these games will not only be the most expensive ever staged, they will likely be the most subtly politicized games yet.

"Look for China to go all out on and off the playing field," Ruck said. "China support is undergoing transition. As market-Leninism dominates the economy, it has created tensions within Chinese sport. The athletes are often the products of the state system, but that system is evolving rapidly. It now involves Nike, agents, and domestic manufacturers, as well as traditional sport clubs and the local party organization."

Ruck can be reached at 412-648-7539 (office), 412-422-7962 (home), or ruck439019@aol.com or through Trish White at 412-624-9101 (office), 412-215-9932 (cell), or laer@pitt.edu.

Public Opinion and Political Change

Wenfang Tang, professor in Pitt's Department of Political Science, codirector of Pitt's Confucius Institute, and a native of China, can talk about the Olympics and Tibet. Tang's research focuses on surveying social attitudes and opinion in China. Founder of the Pitt in China program, Tang leads study tours to China each summer.

Tang is author of "Public Opinion and Civil Society" (Guangzhou: National Sun Yat-Sen University Press, 2008), "Public Opinion and Political Change in China" (Stanford University Press, 2005), "Chinese Urban Life Under Market Reform: The Changing Social Contract," with William L. Parish (Cambridge University Press, 2000), and "Who Should Rule? Enterprise Decision Making in Contemporary China" (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1996).

Tang can be reached at 412-327-5237 (cell) or tangwenfang@gmail.com or through Trish White at 412-624-9101 (office), 412-215-9932 (cell), or laer@pitt.edu.

The anthropology of fitness and health

Joseph S. Alter, whose area of interest is South Asia, researches the field of medical anthropology on topics of physical fitness, public health, social psychology, and the relationship between health, culture, and politics broadly defined. He can talk about political protests, gender, non-Western sports, history, and wrestling.

Alter has recently conducted work on the symbolic meaning of the body in the practice of Indian wrestling; the relationship between sexuality, male celibacy, and nationalism in post-colonial India; and the development of scientific yoga therapy as a modern, middle-class form of public health in urban India.

Alter can be reached at 412-421-9714 (home) or jsalter@pitt.edu or through Trish White at 412-624-9101 (office), 412-215-9932 (cell), or laer@pitt.edu.

China's Economy

Beijing has turned into a massive construction zone, as an army of largely unskilled workers continues to erect gleaming skyscrapers and distinctive stadiums at the Olympic Games site. Thomas Rawski, professor of economics, says massive parts of the labor force are being shifted from farming into construction, industry, and services. But while this job creation rate is substantial, Rawski says it lags behind the achievements of the early 1990s.

Rawski, an observer of China's economy for three decades, recently coedited China's Rise and the Balance of Influence in Asia (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2007) and contributed to and coedited the forthcoming book, China's Great Economic Transformation (Cambridge University Press).

He can be reached at 412-648-7062 (office), tgrawski@pitt.edu, or through Sharon Blake at 412-624-4364 (office), 412-277-6926 (cell) or blake@pitt.edu.

Amateur Athletics/1948 Medal Winner

Pitt Emeritus Trustee Herbert Douglas, who earned bachelor's and master's degrees in Pitt's School of Education in 1948 and 1950, respectively, won the bronze medal in the long jump in the 1948 Summer Olympics in London.

In 1980, Douglas founded the International Amateur Athletic Association following the death of his life-long hero Jesse Owens. Every year the American-International Athlete Trophy honors an accomplished athlete who also exemplifies the ability and humanitarian qualities Owens represented. Among the recipients are Greg Louganis, Florence Griffith-Joyner, Roger Kingdom, Michael Johnson, Haile Gebrselassie, Marion Jones, Ian Thorpe, and Lance Armstrong. Douglas can be reached at 267-738-0553 or HerbertDouglasJr@aol.com or through Amanda Leff at 412-624-4238 (office), 412-337-3350 (cell), or aleff@pitt.edu.

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