This chapter tracks the diffusion of Western-style athletic culture in Japan and Korea since the late nineteenth century. It argues that modern teach sport was introduced to Japan and Korea by British and American educators and Christian missionaries. Many Western team sports were introduced to North Asia by the YMCA. Japan sought excellence in Olympic sports before World War II as evidence of its modernity. Sport served in Korea as a mechanism for expressing anticolonial nationalism. After World War II, economic growth enabled both nations to allocate more resources to excellence in elite sport. Hosting the Asian Games and the Olympics were considered by both Japan and Korea as a stepping-stone to achieving first-class nation status and international recognition.
The first part of this chapter deals with the histories of South Asian/Indian cricket while the second part deals with Olympic sporting histories, a very recent addition to South Asian/Indian sports scholarship. It aims to reiterate that the story of Indian cricket cannot pass as the story of Indian sport. Cricket in contemporary South Asia and more so in India is imbued with a frenzied sense of hyper-nationalistic jingoism and is certainly one of the strongest of contemporary Indian allegiances. If only India or for that matter Pakistan, Sri Lanka, or Nepal had done well in Olympic sports, the popularity and commercial currency of international cricket would surely be under threat. Yet stories of failure on the Olympic stage, often for reasons unconnected to sport, help us understand postcolonial South Asia and more specifically India better.
Due to the Orientalist bias in sport history in the West, starting in the late nineteenth century, “Far Eastern civilization” was defined in terms of its lack relative to “Western civilization,” which (it was said) valued sports and created the Olympic Games. This chapter begins by outlining some of the similarities between classical Greece and China and proceeds to trace the course of China’s encounter with the West through sports up to the present. Western sports were introduced into East Asia by the YMCA, but China turned them to its own goals during Ping Pong Diplomacy. The pursuit of Olympic medals made the position of wushu (traditional martial arts) ambiguous. Inside China, hosting the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing was called the fulfillment of a “one hundred-year dream,” symbolizing that China had finally been written into world history and was no longer defined by its sporting deficiency relative to the West.