Bao Tong, former top Communist Party aide to the ousted late Chinese premier, Zhao Ziyang, has been under house arrest at his Beijing home for nearly two decades after his boss’s fall from power during the 1989 pro-democracy movement. Following are edited extracts from a three-part series of his essays about the Olympic Games in Beijing, broadcast on RFA’s Mandarin service beginning Aug. 4:
It is very naive to take the number of gold medals won as an indicator of the rise of China. That sort of patriotism…has nothing to do with the Olympic spirit…There are subtle differences between China and other countries when it comes to the training and selection of athletes. Other countries use athletics as a way of training the body. China uses athletics to snatch prizes.
China has sponsored a top-down professionalized system, a totally segregated approach to athletic training. Non-Chinese may not understand the term “away from production.” It has its roots in the Chinese Communist Party’s experience of the 1927-37 Chinese civil war, when peasants who relied on the land for their existence took up arms as their revolutionary duty to fight for a share of it. In the process, they were torn away from their families, from the rest of society, and from normal economic activities. They were said to be taken “away from production” to fulfill this task.
China’s athletes are chosen as young children…and taken away from their families, from their schools, and totally cut off from normal social activities. The door is closed, and they give up their entire youth and part of their childhoods for the sole aim of entering and winning competitions, an aim for which they are totally re-molded by the system.