July 11, 2008

Brebeuf graduate carries Olympic torch in China

By John Shaughnessy

As a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, Chris Renner knows some Irish fans will wonder about him when he says he has experienced a sports moment that “made a big Notre Dame football game look like nothing.”

Yet that’s how Renner partly describes the feeling of recently carrying the Olympic torch in China in anticipation of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing in August.

“As a sports marketing professional, I have worked on virtually every Games since Barcelona in 1992,” notes Renner, a 1980 graduate of Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis and a 1984 graduate of Notre Dame. “I was even able to run with the torch previously in the lead-up to the 1994 Lillehammer Winter Olympic Games in Norway. However, the Beijing torch relay has taken this event to a whole new level.

“As we rode in the torch-bearer bus to our designated running location, we were overwhelmed by the sheer number of people who showed up on the route and the raw enthusiasm they displayed. I felt like we were witnessing another sign of China’s evolution into a major power on the international scene. The organization, the unity, the passion—it made a big Notre Dame football game look like nothing.”

Renner carried the torch on June 2 at the invitation of Lenovo, a computer company that is the first Chinese global sponsor of the Olympics and the Olympic torch relay. Lenovo is a client of Renner, who has worked in sports marketing for 17 years. He and his family moved to China three years ago to help with Lenovo’s marketing efforts for the Olympics.

He believes that the Olympic spirit will prevail during the Summer Games in Beijing and also offer an opportunity for dialogue about China’s place in the world.

“If nothing else, the Beijing Olympic Games have underlined the challenges and opportunities China faces going forward,” notes Renner, who is married and the father of three.

“I’d say it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for China and the rest of the world to get to know each other,” he said in an e-mail. “Despite all the issues that have come up around Darfur and Tibet, this will be the chance for the outside world, including civilians, to have a dialogue with the Chinese government and people.

“Despite [those] issues and the recent Sichuan earthquake, Chinese from top to bottom remain enthusiastic about hosting the Games and the rest of the world.” †

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