Predicting a very different Olympics in Beijing

Bobby Curran
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Friday - August 01, 2008
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Some question whether China should have been awarded the host role for the Summer Olympics. Many more may feel it was a bad decision by the time the games end.

To the Western way of thinking, the Chinese have a strange interpretation of competition. Like other totalitarian states, China has long looked at Olympic success as a symbol of the strength of its system rather than a celebration of individual or team skills. The goal for any Chinese athlete is the gold medal. Forget silver medals or the sheer joy of competing. To that end, Chinese athletes are identified early and placed in state-run sports schools where they are put through a grueling regimen that often goes seven days a week. Those that under-perform are weeded out. The concept of rules and fair play in many instances are regarded simply as obstacles to be overcome.

More than 40 Chinese swimmers have tested positive for banned substances since 1990. After sudden success in the Barcelona Olympics with four gold medals, the Chinese exploded to take 12 of 16 golds at the 1994 World Championships, but then the suspicions of the international swimming community proved true. At the 1994 Asian games, 11 Chinese swimmers tested positive for dihydrotestosterone, destroying their team for the 1996 games when they won one gold medal. Then in 1998, four athletes tested positive for HGH, and vials of the hormone were found in the luggage of breaststroker Yuan Yuan. The Chinese claim there was no systemic rule-breaking, but virtually nobody believes it.

Now two of China’s best gymnasts are in an age-minimum controversy. You must be 16 to compete in gymnastics. Both He Kexin and Jian Yuyuan have been listed for years in multiple registries with birthdates that make them 14 now. But suddenly those entries have been removed and replaced with birth-dates that make them 16 and 17, respectively. The newer information is now on their passports. The old dates, coupled with their extraordinary youthful appearances, have led many in the gymnastics world to roll their eyes. While not difficult to do, it does take a number of state agencies to be complicit in the changing of birthdates.

All in all, a very different attitude to sport than most in the world. Add these attitudes to doubts about whether China will keep its promises to the world media, and we may have some very interesting stories coming out of Beijing.

This Monday will be the start of the Warrior football camp and a number of jobs are up for grabs, including quarterback. There will be brisk competition in the secondary as well, especially at safety. The first week of practice goes as follows: Monday 10 a.m.-noon, Tuesday 9-11 a.m., Wednesday and Thursday 4-6 p.m. and Friday and Saturday 8:30-11:30 a.m. The practices are open to the public, so get to the hill and find a good spot.

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