This article explores the national and global significance and impact of Beijing’s hosting of the 2008 summer Olympic Games. The discussion is organized into four main parts. First, I locate the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the context of wider processes of globalization; in particular, I explore how China ‘glocalized’ the Olympics, by giving the event distinctive meanings that were then experienced by global television audiences. Second, I employ the concept of ‘soft power’ to explore how, in hosting the event, China sought to advance its international influence and appeal; I introduce the concept of ‘soft disempowerment’ to examine how there may have been some negative impacts for China in staging the Olympics. Third, I discuss issues of security surrounding the Beijing Olympics, given the growing focus on such questions for sport mega-events in general following the 9/11 attacks in 2001. Fourth, I outline some of the key issues regarding sporting legacies for China, following the 2008 Olympics, with particular reference to Chinese football.