Chinese netizens congratulate Gu Ailing for being ambassador for US Olympics bid, dismiss move to hijack sports with geopolitics
Published: Jun 08, 2022 08:49 PM
Gu Ailing celebrates after winning silver in the women's freeski slopestyle on February 15. Photo: VCG

Gu Ailing celebrates after winning silver in the women's freeski slopestyle on February 15. Photo: VCG

The Chinese team's Olympic freestyle skiing champion Gu Ailing (Eileen Gu) announced Tuesday at the TIME100 Summit that she will serve as an ambassador for the US bid to host the 2030 or 2034 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah, a move welcomed by many Chinese netizens, who said this is not only another demonstration of world-class athletes from Chinese delegation, but also a new step for Gu to promote the sport she loves, as she always said she wanted to do.   

"I think that's this beautiful example of globalism and of the capacity that we can use skiing and we can use sport and we can use winter sport to connect people," she told TIME senior sports correspondent Sean Gregory in New York City at the summit.

"Salt Lake specifically wants to become a global destination for athletes everywhere to come train, and they want to incorporate 15 new countries into the Winter Olympics. I think that's something that's really beautiful and I've always stood for that and so I'm really honored to be a part of the whole thing," Gu said.

Gu, 18, said she doesn't regret representing China at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, where she became the first extreme sports athlete to win three medals - two of them gold - at a single Olympic Games earlier this year. 

The news about Gu triggered heated discussion on China's Twitter-like Sina Weibo with the hashtag being viewed more than 150 million times within a few hours.

"It is just the latest example of an athlete from the Chinese delegation becoming an ambassador for a foreign country's bid to host the Olympic Games, and it is another demonstration of the influence these world-class athletes have," many netizens commented as they sent warm congratulations to Gu.

"Awesome! She did what she said she would do: promote skiing around the world!" said another.

Many US media outlets, when reporting this event, focused on hyping the "discrepancies" between Chinese netizens, and claimed her decision will reduce her popularity among Chinese people. 

Yet many netizens believed this is the US media projecting the rising extreme nationalism onto Chinese society. Those netizens said Gu's hope and endeavor of bridging communication between China and the US should be encouraged.

Many Chinese netizens said they don't buy words and deeds that try to hijack sports with geopolitics.

In 2019, Gu, whose mother is from Beijing, announced on her Instagram at age 15 that she would compete for China in the 2022 Winter Olympics.

She said that the move was an opportunity for her to "inspire millions of young people" in the country where her mom was born and to "unite people, promote common understanding, create communication, and forge friendships between nations."

Gu was bashed by some US media for the decision. For example, Fox News host Will Cain called her an "ungrateful" traitor, saying that it is "shameful" for the young athlete to turn her back on the US in exchange for money.

Gu rocked the Chinese community after winning her first Winter Olympics gold in the big air freestyle event. She won two gold medals and one silver during the Beijing Games. 

Gu was the most talked-about athlete on Chinese social media platforms during the Winter Games, not only because of her early decision to represent China and her remarkable talent, but also for her unstoppable energy and enthusiasm for skiing. She inspired many Chinese young people, who said Gu is a global idol who represents what real sporting spirit is about. 

Apart from Gu, there are also examples of Chinese athletes who took on the same role, include Olympic diver and International Swimming Hall of Fame member Gao Min, who was invited as a special representative from Asia when New York City was bidding to host the 2012 Summer Olympics, and China's top snooker player Ding Junhui, who was an ambassador when London was bidding to host the 2012 Summer Olympics.

Chinese former figure skating World Champion Chen Lu was also named ambassador for Sochi - one of the candidate cities bidding for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Meanwhile, Michael Te Pei Chang, a former professional tennis player from the US, also served as a goodwill ambassador for the 2008 Beijing Olympic bid committee.

Global Times