Is bronze good enough for Chinese fans?

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/8/17 21:53:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Editor's Note:

Since the Rio Olympic Games kicked off earlier this month, the Chinese audience has been more tolerant of failure on the part of athletes than in the past. But with the worst performance for five Olympics so far, the public mood may be changing. Should gold medals still be the priority at the Games? The Global Times has collected three opinions on the matter.

Too much money for gold not to matter

Winning a gold medal at the Olympic Games couldn't have been more important for China for a long time. It was so significant that the audience could not emotionally afford to see athletes lose in competitions. Prominent athletes Li Ning and Liu Xiang, whom the whole of China once took pride in, met with heavy doubts and criticisms after failing the audience's expectations.

However, things are changing. During the ongoing Rio Olympics, some highly-anticipated athletes have received more encouragement and consoling than accusations when they failed to win gold medals. Swimmer Fu Yuanhui, a bronze medal winner, even became a social media sensation overnight for her frankness in post-competition interviews and her ecstatic facial expressions and received far more attention than the gold medalists. This is a huge sign that the public's frenzy for gold medals is calming down.

It is the spirit of the Olympic Games to enjoy sports. But it does not mean anti-gold-medal sentiments should prevail. Some people consider the Olympics as a huge party for sports and you just need to play. When athletes shed tears over losing a gold medal, some people would blame China's sports system that sets national interests as the ultimate goal. Some scorn athletes' thanks to the country. A question thereby arises: Does the gold medal still matter?

Sports are a game. But in competitive sports, athletes are obliged to compete for the top place. Defeating all competitors is a glory for both the athletes and their country. In this sense, a gold medal plays a critical role in boosting morale and inspiring the national ethos. This should be differentiated from the gold-only thinking that conflicts with the Olympic spirit.

At present, China's state-run sports system means that the state funds most sports programs and the funding has to pay off. Gold medals are one of the most significant indicators of the effect of the state's investments. The sports watchdog has to consider replacing those whose performance doesn't match what they have been given. It is necessary to pay more attention to sports itself than gold medals, but a top place in the games and a gold medal always matter.

Sporting attitudes need to change

From 776 BC to today, the Olympic Games has a history of 2,792 years. The Olympic spirit of mutual understanding, friendship, unity and fair race has nurtured generations of people. Since 1896, the modern Summer Olympic Games have been held 31 times, playing a significant role in the global pattern as the times change. Since 1984, Chinese mainland athletes have participated in the summer Olympics nine times.

As the Rio Olympics continues, China came at third on the gold medal tally by Tuesday. For China, one of the most outstanding changes at this year's games is that the Chinese audience is enjoying the games and sees the gold medals more rationally than before.

Chinese used to attach particularly high importance to gold medals, which caused some controversy in the previous games. During the London Olympic Games, a debate on China's State-run sports system and Chinese people's gold complex swept across public opinion. Chinese craved not only getting the biggest number of medals, but getting the first gold medal on the first day after the Olympics kicked off.

But these cravings were frustrated at Rio when the Chinese teams unexpectedly suffered setbacks. Yet the Chinese audience takes it calmly and showed much restraint. They have grown mature in viewing gold medals.

As a country that has a time-honored civilization but lags behind in modern times, Chinese people have a natural affection for the gold medal as it indicates that Chinese people can exceed just as others do.

In fact, if a country lags behind others in economy, culture and sports, and wants to get more gold medals, it must adopt a state-run sports system. This was a justified and reasonable practice in the past. However, China has already become a world power and does not need to prove its strength by winning gold medals. Therefore, the public is paying more attention to the individual's rights and the sports themselves, while athletes compete to enjoy sports, not simply for gold medals.

Relieving athletes and coaches of unfair expectations can help China shift from a state known for its ability to win gold medals to a real sporting power.

State-run sports give ordinary folk chance

Every time the Olympic Games kicks off, there are always questions among Chinese why, when China spends massive money on nurturing athletes to win gold medals, sport is still not that popular in the country. They call the investment a waste of money.

These questioners usually cite the US practice, praising that US athletes all have private sponsors rather than state funding and they play sports out of love. The US government doesn't care much about the gold medals. Is that really the case?

On the contrary, Americans deem gold medalists at the Olympics national heroes and the authorities allocate funds to various sports associations in part according to the gold medals they win. More medals definitely mean more funding. To encourage the public to donate to sports, the US governments at different levels offer favorable tax policies to sponsors by every means. The public schools, where a large number of US professional athletes come from, receive abundant funds from the governments, and some of the funds are used as scholarships for student athletes.

Olympic Games are a competition of the countries' comprehensive strength. In fact, China's investments in sports are not appallingly high. Countries like the UK, Russia and Japan have allocated far more funding per capita.

Germany is renowned for its heavy investments in sports. In the Rio Olympics, nearly 200 out of 424 German athletes are trained by the military and the police. The German authorities are frank that medals are a measure of success.

In fact, China's investments in sports have been relatively cost-effective. China's state-run system provides an equal opportunity for children from ordinary families to climb on the ladder of sports. In fact, every sports power attaches great importance to the results of the games. With the development of China, the athletes' training methods will be diversified, and China will have its own characteristics in competitive sports.

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