For the Chinese, the Olympics have always been something more than just games: the longstanding medal-oriented ideology has linked sports achievements to national glory. As the 2012 London Olympics loom, although the national team is smaller than in 2008, general attention towards the games is still quite high. From Neil Connor at AFP:
China has announced a far smaller team for the London Olympics than the one that topped the gold medal table at home four years ago, but expectations are high of another dominant performance.
“The Chinese athletes must get fully prepared and ready to face the challenges. We have to fight for each gold,” Sports Minister Liu Peng said at the announcement ceremony.
Some have chafed at the medal-oriented policy, however. From Yueran Zhang at Tea Leaf Nation:
Those achievements may be provoking something else. @善泰澄兰阮一飞’s comment was representative: “It’s so hypocritical to mention ‘patriotism’ every time before the Olympics. I would prefer fewer gold medals. It’s snobby to award champions with millions of money. It is them, rather than ‘patriotism,’ that flourishes from taxpayer money.”
[…] And then there’s the money. Netizens increasingly question a medal-oriented system which spends astronomical amount of taxpayer money to support potential medal winners, arguing that money could be invested in social welfare. “The medal-first policy should have been abandoned long ago, ”@河南樵夫 argues. “It wastes national wealth, makes people suffer and goes against the spirit of Olympics. Gold medals, no matter how many, can not promote healthy conditions for Chinese people.”
The gulf between the conditions of China’s Olympians and the rest of its people is illustrated by the athletes’ fiercely controlled diet. From Yang Wang at Caixin:
This year, the General Administration of Sports prohibited all of the country’s sports teams from eating pork, beef or lamb, except for the meat provided from known safe sources at the athletes’ training bases.
China’s has had countless serious issues with food in recent years. In the sports sector, where doping is of particular concern, it’s no wonder the sports authority keeps a very close eye on what the members of its national teams put in their mouths.
Before the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the Chinese swimmer Ouyang Kunpeng received a lifetime ban. He was believed to have eaten barbecue at a roadside stall and thus had a serious level of clenbuterol in his blood. Farmers in China illegally add clenbuterol to pig and sheep feed to keep the animals lean. In the sporting world, the chemical is a performance-enhancing drug.
Record-setting hurdler Liu Xiang, meanwhile, has again landed in controversy. After he quit the Diamond League London Grand Prix last week claiming a back injury, both official media and online forums are hotly debating Liu’s Olympic prospects. Some linked this to his previous drop-out in 2008, and shouted out their disappointment. From Lilian Lin at Reuters:
Mr. Liu had suffered from problems with his intercostal muscles, which run between the ribs and help with breathing, but had recovered before flying to London for Diamond League competition, China’s state-broadcaster CCTV reported on Saturday, citing the hurdlers coaches. The injury appears to have been re-aggravated by a combination of intense competition at the meet and London’s cold weather, CCTV said.
Such reports didn’t keep social media users from indulging, once again, in Liu-related conspiracy theories. “Is this a trick to confuse his competitors or a strategy to reserve his energy for the Olympics?” asked one Sina Weibo user, one of many to raise the possibility of an ulterior motive.
Others were less charitable. “If you are not in condition to compete, why don’t you give the Olympic opportunity to other, younger athletes? ” wrote a user posting under the name of Beyond_Americano. “Ever since I first heard about Liu Xiang, it’s always been something, whether a foot or leg or, now, his back,” wrote another. “No one else is putting pressure on you. The glory is yours. It’s you who are putting too much pressure on yourself. So disappointing.”
Read more about the Olympics via CDT.