Thursday, August 9, 2012

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.


  1. I love watching the Olympics - and the pride that all the athletes have for their countries! No other televised event matches this.

  2. I also love all the backstories! How much the atheletes and their families had to sacrifice. Yes, some of the countries are harsh on their athletes I guess, but I stand in awe of all of them.

  3. Hahaha I love the idea of the Chinese government reading the Wall Street Journal. I agree with you that although we are disappointed when our athletes lose, we don't tout them as failures. Our sport governing body, on the other hand, was held accountable for Beijing, when South Africa did pathetically bad, mainly because the athletes were picked based on politics rather than skill.

    This year we did a lot better, and I'm truly proud of our achievements, even though we also had our share of disappointments as well. :-)

  4. Hi Misha: Reading your comment reminds me of how little I know about South Africa. I will follow your blog to learn more about a country I have always wanted to visit. And congratulations to all the athletes. I will be watching the closing ceremonies tonight, look for South Africa and think of you.

  5. Great post. I would have enjoyed reading the Wall Street Journal article, but the link does not work (I'll be back again to try it again).

    These Olympics have been fraught with so many little inconsistencies from judging errors to poor commentating that I have found them, at times, difficult to watch.

    The worst has been the heartache I feel for the Chinese athletes and the tremendous pressure for Gold. Over here in Canada we seem quite happy basking in the glow of Bronze!


    1. Thanks, Jenny. I looked up the actual link and added it to my post. WSJ writes it so much better than me. And, I have to say, Bronze is beautiful.

    2. Thanks for sharing that link - I just read it. Such a sad thing to read that some (probably all) these Chinese athletes are deprived of a healthy family life at the cost of winning gold.

      And...just a foot note about the link, it could be that it was there all along but I was clicking on the words "The Wall Street Journal" which were underlined thinking this would be a direct link to the article. Silly me! :)