Lone Olympian serves as inspiration


While broadcasters gear up for a frenzy of activity throughout the Olympics, the Chinese film community will be making its own contribution to the celebration of the Games with the wide release of a major new film.

"The One" recounts the story of Chinese sprinter Liu Changchun and how he overcame Japanese intrusion to become the sole representative of China at the 1932 Los Angeles Games.

Details of the inspirational film were unveiled at Universal Studios during an event organized by the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Radio and Television. Chinese authorities recently visited Hollywood on their worldwide journey to tout the work.

Liu was the sole representative of 400 million Chinese at the 1932 Olympics. His determination inspired many of his countrymen to follow in his footsteps and serves as a story of heroism that will be seen by a vast audience in China throughout the 2008 Games in Beijing.

"The One" was shot on location in Dalian, China, by producer Wang Zhe Bin of Forbidden City Film Co.

"My father passed on his optimism and patriotism to us," said the athlete's son, Liu Hongliang, who was at Universal Studios.

Liu was a celebrated sprinter from Dalian, in northeastern Liaoning Province. In 1931, the Japanese had begun its occupation of northeastern China, which they were turning into a puppet state called Manchukuo. The intruders concocted a plan to send Liu to the 10th Olympic Games to represent their counterfeit entity.

But they reckoned without the athlete's will.

"He published a statement in the Ta Kung Pao newspaper, refusing to represent the so-called state at the Olympics," his son said. "Upon reading about my father's statement, the patriotic Gen. Zhang Xueliang declared he would financially sponsor my father in the Olympics to represent China. Gen. Zhang was a tremendous influence on my father. He opposed the Japanese invaders all his life despite the harsh living conditions."

With Zhang's money, Liu set sail from Shanghai to Los Angeles. "After about a month on the boat, my father had gained a few kilos. He was not at his best," his son recalls.

Three days after Liu arrived in Los Angeles, he competed but was eliminated in the preliminary heats in the 100-meter and 200-meter sprints, clocking 11.1 and 22.1 seconds, respectively.

"After the Games were over, the money donated by Gen. Zhang, about $1,000, had already run out. Liu had to solicit donations from the local Chinese community in Los Angeles to be able to buy a ticket back home," the young Liu said.

"After we came back to Nanjing, my father did not have a job, and our family were in complete destitution," he continued, wiping away tears. "We suffered a lot when I was a kid."

Liu Changchun died in 1983.

When Liu reflects on his father's legacy, it's his optimism that he remembers most.

"When food was a problem, the Olympic Games were the last concerns on people's minds," he said. "But I think it's his high spirits that navigated his life. And I learned that from him. I guess that's what the Olympic spirit is about."