China and the Olympics

Ye Shiwen wins a gold medal.

China’s Olympic triumphs prove once again the transforming nature of revolutions.

The People’s Republic of China sent its first delegation of athletes to the 1952 Olympic summer games in Helsinki, Finland. Arriving late, they were able to participate in only one sporting event. Due to the imperialists refusing to recognize the Chinese communist government in Beijing, and instead declaring Taiwan the representative of China in the Olympics, the PRC boycotted the summer games for the next 32 years.

It wasn’t until the 1984 games in Los Angeles that the PRC sent its first full delegation of athletes. And 24 years later in 2008, China hosted the XXIX summer games in Beijing, where it won 100 medals — more than any other country, including the U.S.

That was an astonishing achievement for a country that had only recently begun to emerge from semifeudal underdevelopment after a heroic socialist revolution achieved people’s power in 1949. Today China, with 1.3 billion people, has the second-largest economy in the world.

China showed at the 2008 games that it was a world sports power to be reckoned with. It shattered the myth that only teams from rich capitalist countries like the U.S. were invincible. The U.S. could not hide its displeasure with China’s achievements. Most notably, when the Chinese won the gold medal in women’s team gymnastics, beating the reigning world champions from the U.S., the latter accused the Chinese team of being underage because of their small stature. Women gymnasts are required to turn 16 in the same year as the games.

The U.S. was hoping that the Chinese women would be disqualified, but it never happened. Chinese coach Lu Shanzhen stated, “It’s unfair that people keep saying the Chinese are too young to compete. If they think they can tell someone’s age just by looking at them, well, if you look at the foreign athletes, they have so much more muscles than the Chinese. They are so strong. Do you then say that they are doping?” (New York Times, Aug. 13, 2008)

History is repeating itself four years later, at the 2012 XXX Olympic Games in London, where China sent the fifth-largest delegation of athletes. Only Great Britain, the U.S., Australia and Germany sent more. As of day three of the games, China is tied with the U.S. for the most medals won overall, and it has more gold medals than any other country.

The Chinese male gymnasts won their second consecutive team gold medal, with Japan winning the silver and Great Britain the bronze. The U.S. team came in fifth. Both Japan and Great Britain had brutally ruled China with an iron fist in the last century. Before China’s Olympic victories, the biased U.S. gymnastic commentators on NBC stated that the Chinese men were in danger of not winning any kind of medal, due to their “mediocre” qualifying scores (which are required to reach the finals).

The U.S. is once again expressing its anti-China bias by accusing a great Chinese swimmer, Ye Shiwen, of using banned substances. Ye won a gold medal July 30 in the 400-meter individual medley, setting a world record. U.S. coach John Leonard made the accusation in a Guardian interview, saying Ye’s performance was “unbelievable,” “outrageous,” “disturbing” and that she looked like a “superwoman.” Ye replied, “The Chinese team keep very firmly to the anti-doping policies, so there is absolutely no problem.” (July 30)

When it was reported that Ye swam faster over a 50-meter span than U.S. gold medal winner Ryan Lochte, Leonard commented that “a woman does not out-swim the fastest man in the world in the back quarter of a 400m individual medley that is otherwise quite ordinary. It just doesn’t happen.” However, the British Olympic Committee officially stated that Ye was clean. These accusations hark back to the anticommunist, sexist statements made during the 1980s about women athletes from the former German Democratic Republic.

What has infuriated the U.S. and other Western powers most of all is that in just three generations China, as a result of a massive revolutionary upheaval that lasted for decades, has come from being one of the poorest countries in the world, where only the most privileged got any kind of education or training, to a world power in so many areas, including sports.

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