China vs U.S. and the Olympics
The emphasis on the State vs the individual is glaringly made clear during these Olympics.
China's goal was to win more gold medals than the U.S., and the pressure on their athletes during this final week is enormous. Liu Xiang, the star Chinese hurdler, was an example. He fell during the 110 meter hurdles. Just before the start, the Chinese broadcaster said, "Liu is not as perfect as he used to be" referring to his injuries during the Beijing Olympics four years ago. So, with that perhaps ringing in his ears, Liu fell early in the race.
Last week, 23-year-old weight lifter Wu Jingbiao, apologized for winning the silver instead of the gold medal, and did this bowing before the TV cameras. And a younger female weight lifter was referred to by some Chinese newspapers as "One of the countries biggest failures."
Not all the Chinese news media were so harshly critical, some calling for change in the quest for global recognition via the state system of sports and the training and expectation of their athletes. Some even referred to Liu as "Brave Liu."
Here, of course, we are disappointed when our athletes don't do well, but we all understand that our disappointment does not come close to the disappointment the athletes themselves feel after years of practice and sacrifice. Adding to that would be cruel, in my opinion, and we do not humiliate these athletes. The puritanical years, where people would be put in stocks with signs around their neck listing their sins, are over.
The contrast between the two systems is stunning.
These are my thoughts relating to an August 8th article in The Wall Street Journal.
Note: One day later, August 9th, 2012. China is now "PR-ing" and replacing photos of Liu's falling with praise for his past successes. Perhaps they read The Wall Street Journal.