The Norwegian Gerhard Heiberg, a member of the International Olympic Committee, said on Wednesday that people in the West should know more about China by going to China and see what’s happening there.
Heiberg, who is also a member of the IOC’s Executive Board and chairmen of several IOC commissions, have made more than 100 visits to China over the past three decades, with the first one in 1976, two years before the Communist Party of China (CPC) adopted the policy of opening up to the outside world and started reforms at home.
When asked in an interview to comment on China’s development since his first visit to China, the 72-year-old Norwegian man told Xinhua, “I would like to say that it is really impressive to see how China has developed.”
“I feel the progress and I can see the difference, ” Heiberg said, adding that Chinese people have a much better life today than before and “as I have said, the progress has been enormous and very, very impressive. “
The high-ranking IOC official said it makes him very “gaoxing” (happy) to see Chinese doing all kinds of sports when he travelled to different places in China after the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, which he said provided a good chance for people outside of China to know about China, a fast-growing country with 1.3 billion people and 56 different ethnic groups.
With the success in and the pride for hosting the Olympic Games in Beijing, the Chinese people, who are humble and willing to listen and learn, have also developed self-confidence, which, in Heiberg’s views, is positive to the rest of the world as well.
Heiberg, who are often accused in the West of being a China defender, said, “I think most people in the West do not know enough about what’s happening in China. I feel that there is a lot of ignorance that makes people a little scared.”
“They know China is a big country (with) 1.3 billion people. They do not know enough. They haven’t been there and they haven’t seen anything” and then they got a little scared and were afraid of anything new, the IOC official said.
“These accusations to me are very much based upon people’s ignorance here. So I said to everybody coming to me and accusing me of defending China: For heaven’s sake, have you been there? No? Why don’t you then go and see?” he said.
Hopefully more and more people in the West “will open their eyes more to the development in China and see what is happening in technology, in industry and in standard of living and possibilities for the people in China,” Heiberg said.
“I hope I will live till I am 200 years just to follow the developments in China,” he said.
Heiberg said that he would like to help Norwegians to go and to see China and meet the Chinese and also invite Chinese to Norway to see the beauty of his country and the Norwegian people so as to develop mutual respect.