He Zhenliang, China’s ‘Mr. Olympics,’ dies at 85
BEIJING (AP) — He Zhenliang, a former International Olympic Committee vice president who was instrumental in Beijing winning the 2008 Summer Olympics, has died. He was 85.
He died at a hospital in Beijing of an unspecified illness on Sunday, according to the state-run Xinhua news service.
Known by the nickname “Mr. Olympics” in China, He was elected to the International Olympic Committee in 1981 and became vice president in 1989, remaining in the position for four years.
He was perhaps best known for his role in helping Beijing land the 2008 Olympics after the city unsuccessfully bid for the games eight years earlier. He was part of the presentation team at the IOC session in Moscow in 2001 where Beijing was awarded the games and served on the organizing committee’s executive board.
“Mr. He was a man of culture and art,” said IOC President Thomas Bach. “He was a true advocate of the social values of sport and of our movement. ... He also helped our movement better understand his country, its people and outstanding culture. The Olympic movement has lost one of its most fervent ambassadors.”
Wei Jizhong, former secretary-general of the Chinese Olympic Committee, told the China Daily newspaper that He wept after Beijing lost the vote for the 2000 Olympics to Sydney.
“He said he felt he had let his country and people down, while in fact he’d done what he could to the utmost (to help Beijing as a bid committee member),” Wei said. “His promotion for Beijing during the first bid and his valuable suggestions the second time played a big part in the success of 2008.”
Beijing is one of two finalists for the 2022 Winter Olympics, and if it wins, it would become the first city to host both the summer and winter games.