University of Minnesota Hosts Exhibit on Origins of China's Olympic Dream

When the 2008 Olympic Games opened in Beijing on August 8, it was the culmination of 100 years of planning. In 1908, a YMCA Secretary in China posed the prophetic question “when will China host the Olympics?” never guessing that the answer would materialize a century later.
The University of Minnesota Libraries are displaying materials from the Kautz Family YMCA Archives that chronicle the origins and development of the Olympic dream in the Far East by examining the YMCA’s introduction and promotion of athleticism in China. “Reaching for Gold: The YMCA and the Olympic Movement in China from 1895-1920” is free and open to the public from Aug. 4 through Sept. 29 at the Elmer L. Andersen Library Gallery.
An online version of the exhibit is available at:
As part of the missionary movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries, the American YMCA workers (in those times known as “secretaries”) who went abroad did more than preach the Gospel. They aimed to spread the YMCA movement itself, and the movement concerned itself with the whole person — the spirit, the mind, and the body.
“When I first heard that the Olympics were coming to Beijing, I thought about it as an opportunity for us to show the rich collection we have and to share the [little-known] fact that the Y was so instrumental in bringing modern sports to China,” says YMCA reference archivist Dagmar Getz.
The Kautz Family YMCA Archives collections document the evolution of the YMCA from its Protestant evangelical origins, including its contributions to Civil War relief, the invention of basketball and volleyball, public health campaigns in China, rural reconstruction in India and Korea, teaching English as a second language and much more. Its China records amount to about 50 linear feet.
A description of the historical materials documenting the YMCA presence in China, available for research use in the Kautz Family YMCA Archives, can be seen at:
Exhibit hours are from 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and from 9 a.m. – 1p.m. on Saturdays after Labor Day.
For more information, contact:
David Klaassen e-mail:
Archivist, Social Welfare History Archives
& Archivist, Kautz Family YMCA Archives
320 Elmer Andersen Library voice: (612) 624-4377
222 – 21st Avenue South fax: (612) 624-4848
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN 55455