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Bud Greenspan on China's history, future in Olympic movement

Greenspan is one of the world's foremost Olympic historians  

(CNN) -- Award-winning sports producer and historian Bud Greenspan has spent several decades documenting the history of the modern Olympics, putting the Games into political, social and personal context.

Greenspan was in Moscow with the International Olympic Committee when its president, Juan Antonio Samaranch, announced Beijing would be home to the 2008 Olympics. These Games will be the first-ever hosted by the world's most populous country, and the first since 1980 hosted by a communist nation.

Greenspan produced a promotional film for the Beijing 2008 bid committee, showcasing and projecting China's place in Olympic history. He talked with CNN's Kyra Phillips on Saturday about the video, Samaranch's announcement and what the Beijing Games will mean to China and the world.

Watch the announcement and celebration in the streets of China (July 13)

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PHILLIPS: What was your reaction when you found out that Beijing was selected?

GREENSPAN: We've been following Beijing since 1992, when they lost out by two votes to Sydney, Australia. This was just another victory for us and for the Chinese people.

(The Chinese) have come a very long way since coming back, after over 50 years of absence, for the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. I knew then that the American people were behind the Chinese introduction as a host nation when they entered the stadium on opening day in 1984. The crowd gave them a tremendous ovation, which meant for me that they wanted the Chinese back in full.

PHILLIPS: Let's talk about your (promotional video for the Beijing 2008 bid). You do include a lot of history. What was the main focus of this film and what was your goal?

GREENSPAN: The goal was to present the Chinese people to the United States and the world in a different way than they've been presented by the media in the past decade or so. They are nice human beings. They are great athletes. They are very responsible. They are very gracious in their response to us.

And I, before I went to Beijing a few months ago, was of the opinion that all they had was bicycles. They have magnificent hotels. They have magnificent arenas. They can host the Games.

And they're looking to open up the country so that people can come in and teach them. They won't outwardly say that they want to be taught, but that's what the indication is. They want to have the world to come to Beijing in the year 2008.

PHILLIPS: Bud, did you address the issue of human rights abuses at all in this promotional video?

GREENSPAN: No, it wasn't touched at all and we didn't think it was necessary to touch on it because the newspapers and the media had taken care of that. It was a straight historical, interesting, informative, and, I think, dramatic video that was well-received by the IOC members. And I think there were three or four IOC members on the bench in that second round -- the video, without being too self-serving, pushed them over the top in voting for Beijing.

PHILLIPS: What do you think it was in the film that sort of clinched the bid and opened up the eyes of the IOC?

GREENSPAN: I think it's a little self-serving that I think it would have clinched the vote, but I think if there were three or four IOC members on the fence. It certainly moved them to give a new look at what Beijing was going to be like in the year 2008.

PHILLIPS: Do you believe that the Olympics will force change in China and deal with issues like human rights abuses?

GREENSPAN: Boycotts never have forced any change. We know that when the Americans boycotted the Moscow Games of 1980 and the Soviet Union boycotted the American Games with Los Angeles.

Mitt Romney, who's running the Salt Lake City Games that are coming up in the next four months, came out with an expression yesterday which I think everybody should pay heed to -- that it's better to build bridges than to build walls.

• International Olympic Committee
• Beijing 2008

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