Illustration: Sun Ying
Editor's Note:Chinese media outlets have already started putting the medal table in a prominent place on their front pages. With the nation still glowing from topping the table in 2008, and the media flocking to cover champions while ignoring runners-up, is the obsession with gold medals bad for national character? Has the fervor around gold medals really faded since 2008? The Global Times invited two commentators to give their views.
As usual, Chinese athletes have been performing spectacularly in this year's London Olympic Games. Back home, it remains controversial whether China is excessively obsessed with gold medals.
A scenario at the award ceremony of the women's 10-meter air rifle on Saturday has draw controversy. Yu Dan, who only won bronze, was almost ignored by the Chinese media, which were busy interviewing Yi Siling, China's first gold medalist in the London games.
Many netizens were unhappy with or even enraged by this. They called for the media to pay more attention to silver and bronze medal winners. Some went further by associating the media's utilitarianism with the country's gold medal-orientated sports system, blaming it for the abnormal obsession with gold medals.
Weightlifter Wu Jingbiao's emotional breakdown after Monday's competition also enhanced this perception. He burst into tears after winning silver and confessed on camera that he had failed his nation, his team and his supporters.
The call for more attention to athletes who only win silver and bronze, or even those who fail to win any medals, is a genuine reflection of the Olympic spirit and should be encouraged.
This also shows the positive development of our social mentality, which is becoming more humane and mature.
But it is unfair to blame the media's obsession with gold medals solely on China's sports system. In fact, the obsession has more to do with the public's own choices.
In most countries, people pay more attention to those who win Oscars or Nobel prizes than those who were merely nominated for such awards. This habit then gets reflected by the media coverage. A winner-takes-all mentality dominates many fields.
Even in highly professional and commercial games like soccer and basketball, the champions get all the flowers, media coverage and financial benefits, while the failed finalists will have to swallow their tears quietly in the shadow.
The Olympic Games is no different. Although this is the most varied sporting event in the world and has its own set of profound values, the hunger to be the champion dominates, and can be strongly driven by commercial interests or national pride.
The public's preferences can also be observed from the amount of attention on social media.
For instance, after Sun Yang made history by winning a gold medal for Chinese men's swim team, his post was forwarded like crazy.
In comparison the retweets of posts on his teammate Hao Yun, who didn't win any medal but managed to hold the fourth position, also a quite impressive result, were merely a fraction of the first number.
The media's recent shift of focus from gold medalists to silver and bronze winners is also influenced by public preferences. As China's strength in Olympic events grows, gold medals can no longer bring the public the excitement they used to.
And since China has now passed many symbolic milestones in its nation building efforts, winning gold medal is no longer that significant to national pride.
The gold medal fever has started to cool in our society. This is exactly why both new and traditional media are beginning to pay more attention to silver and bronze winners.
This is a pleasant development. It signals that apart from acquiring the infrastructure of a big nation, Chinese society is now starting to build up a mentality that matches the status of the country.
The author is a media commentator based in Shanghai. firstname.lastname@example.org
Historical weakness creates China's gold medal fixation