Sentiments from Asia’s Rising Powers on Winning and Losing at the Olympics
China left the Olympic Games with more medals than any other country with the exception of the United States. Chinese coverage of the events reflected highly nationalistic views that focused on foreign media bias against China as a reflection of their antagonism toChina’s rise.
Numerous editorials accused Western countries of bias against China:
- An editorial in the Global Times noted that “the Western attitude toward China is not as warm as ours was toward the West four years ago,” while the People’s Daily labeled China as victim to the media’s “selective blindness”.
- Olympics reporter Chen Ziao encouraged greater international coverage of the Olympic Games by Chinese media. By doing so, the Chinese media can “seize international discourse power.”
The Chinese media expressed outrage over accusations of doping by gold medal victory of 16-year-old Ye Shiwen in the 400m individual medley.
- “Accusing the Chinese swimmer of doping…reflects broader ill-will of those people towards China’s achievements and rising strength,” wrote Xinhua columnist Lu Hui. Another writer characterized the accusations as “a kind of hysteria fanned by some Western media.”
Others noted the parallels between China’s global rise and its Olympic successes:
- “While it is a sports competition, the Olympic Games is also a contest of national strength,” stated the Global Times, while also noting that for China, the Olympics “is a place to compare itself with the world. On this platform China has been expanding its vision and building confidence.”
Team Russia came fourth in the overall medal count with 24 gold, 25 silver, and 33 bronze medals, triggering comparisons between the Chinese and Russian sports management systems. Meanwhile, Russian officials took careful notes on the London games in preparation for the 2014 Winter Olympics, which will be held in Sochi,Russia.
- The Russian daily Sports Express observed that Russian sports are “frozen” between the Chinese and American systems, blaming a shortage of state funding and lack of oversight and control over national sports federations. “It’s very far from China, where the watchful Communist Party is eyeing the selection process starting from the kindergarten stage, builds giant sports arenas…and harshly demands results,” the paper said. “We must admit that we stand even further from the American model, and the distance keeps growing. Because it would be deadly if we end state involvement in sports as they did. Sports industries that will feed themselves are simply absent in our country.”
- Russian Communist party (KPRF) head Gennady Zyuganov expressed dissatisfaction with Russia’s final medal count, recalling the USSR’s former athletic prowess and blaming “the current power—the government and Putin” for the country’s Olympic setbacks.
- “China is the undisputed leader of the Olympic Games in the beginning of the 21st century and in the coming years will continue to improve the preparation of its athletes,” predicted an editorial in Pravda. “The reality is that Western countries andRussia will sooner or later have to think seriously about changing the system of training their Olympic athletes not to remain in the shadow of the power of sports inChina.”
“India a global force, but not at the Olympics,” ran a Hindustan Times article, accurately reflecting India’s performance at the Games. India went home with six medals—its best showing at the Olympics so far—but 55th out of 79 in the overall rankings. Indeed, the source of India’s “Olympic futility” was a point of discussion in both the Indian and American press.
- “In India, the sports administrators are largely politicians. They don’t know how sport is run,” said Sukhwant Basra, national sports editor for the Hindustan Times.
- The Wall Street Journal noted that “a total of six medals for India averages to one medal for roughly every 207 million inhabitants” and cited a lack of financial and institutional support for Indian athletes, while The Atlantic observed that “India as a country and Indians as individuals just have other priorities.”
- Sadanand Dhume, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, linked economic improvement with the amount of tax revenues the government can spend on infrastructure and training. He was cautiously optimistic about India’s prospects: “Like the Indian economy, Indian sport suffers from too many sticky-fingered politicians and bumbling bureaucrats. But as long as the country can keep its economy on track, over the long haul India’s medal prospects will only improve.”
- The Hindu sportswriter Nirmal Shekar had a different theory: “We are a one-sport nation,” he wrote, referring toIndia’s passion for cricket.India’s Olympic failures are to be expected because “we don’t care about them for three years and eleven-and-a-half months.”
- At the state level, frustrations with India’s performance lead Congress to demand the resignation of Sukhbir Badal, Sports Minister of Punjab. “The failure of sportsmen from Punjab clearly reflects on the poor sports policy of the state government and its Minister Sukhir Badal,” said former Congress MLA Sukhpal Khaira. Congress also ordered Badal to deposit the entire expenditure incurred by his London delegation back into the public exchequer.
Besides China, Korea was the only other Asian nation to finish in the top ten medal count, a point the media proudly highlighted.
- The Joongang Daily published a rearranged world map in accordance with the number of medals won at the Olympics. On a standard world map, South Korea ranks 109th in land mass; on the “medal map,” the ROK is one-third the size ofChina after its ninth place finish in the overall medal count.
- Bae Myung-bok, an editorialist with Joongang Daily, pointed out that Korea’s ‘exceptional’ finish was the result of a number of factors, including national strength, economic prowess, technological innovation, and “charm.” As a result of Korea’s stellar performance, Kim Chong, president of the Association for Industry of Sport in Asia (AISA), predicted increased local investments in sport marketing in Korea.
Japan fell short of its gold-medal target at the Olympics, but still finished with a record haul of 38 medals. Japan Today hailed Team Japan’s success as a “boost to the country’s recovery from last year’s quake-tsunami disaster.” While generally pleased with the results, Japan Olympic Committee Secretary General Noriyuki Ichihara has repeatedly stressed the need to spend far more funds on athletes’ training. “To develop internationally competitive athletes…it will be necessary to nurture coaches and provide promising athletes with steady training and guidance from an early age.”