Estimates for China's gold medal tally at the London Olympic Games have occupied media headlines and inspired many Chinese. However, this enthusiasm is not shared by carpers on some of China's online forums and Weibo. They argue that the number of gold medals has nothing to do with people's livelihoods and health, and ask why the government doesn't invest more in livelihood projects.
China fascinated the world and its own public by topping the gold medal table for the first time at the Beijing Games in 2008. But after the Games, gold medals lost their allure for some Chinese. There are more voices now calling for the cooling down of "gold fever" in China and for reform of the "whole nation" sports system, which has driven China's achievements in world sports.
The "whole nation" sports system has increasingly shown its shortfalls, but this should not take away from the inspiration a gold medal can give to ordinary people. For any country, the spirit represented in sports is cherished and carefully nurtured. It is also a precious element that unites a nation.
Taking part in competitive sports has greatly inspired China in shrugging off its poverty and isolation in the past decades. The whole nation was moved when Xu Haifeng won the first gold medal in shooting for China in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games. Chinese athletes' performances in the sports arena have accompanied the nation's rising status and efforts to integrate with the world.
Xiao Tian, deputy head of the Chinese Olympic delegation, didn't attempt to hide the pressure the Chinese athletes are feeling at the London Games. He said the Chinese public would abuse the delegation if they couldn't meet their expectations of the number of gold medals. Undoubtedly, the majority of Chinese still pay a great deal of attention to the Olympic medal count.
Gold medals are an unavoidable topic in competitive sports. As long as there is competition, athletes will chase gold medals and all nations participating in the Games will take measures to support their athletes. Many countries reward gold medalists with cash bonuses or promotions, even by reducing their military service. Japan, for example, has increased its efforts to cultivate Olympians, including building national training centers for athletes and increasing government investment.
Athletes from all over the world are now competing in London. Let's wish them the best of luck. Meanwhile, China needs to combine competing for medals with promoting mass sports.
China is already a big sports power, and should be on the way to becoming a strong sports power.