The Scandals at the Tenth National Games

Previously, Danwei had a story on how an Olympic judo champion apparently threw a match for the gold medal at the 10th National Games in China upon the coach's order.  To my mind, it was unsatisfactory because the benefits had not been spelt out.

The following is a translation of an article at Phoenix TV about a whole series of similar scandals. 

According to Hong Kong's Tai Kung Pao, the 10th national games being held in Nanjing (Jiangsu) is the most important event before the 2008 Beijing Olympics.  Yet there are some scandals and strange events that can only shine a bad light for the Beijing Olympics.

The worst of the scandals must be the match in the 78kg women's judo championship.  Athens Olympic champion Sun Fuming from Liao Ning encountered the young Yan Sirui of the PLA.  The match began, and then Yan Sirui pushed lightly Sun Fuming lightly on the shoulders and Sun felled immediately on the ground.  The judge then announced that Yan Sirui had won the match as well as the gold medal.

This "blatant" "concession" led to howling from the live audience as well as the national television audience.  Finally, the match had to be played again.  On that day, the live audience was shouting "Go Sun Fuming!" and booing Yan Sirui from start to finish.  The result was that Yan Sirui won again.  The live audience became very angry.  They shouted in unison "It's fake!" "We want our money refunded" and large amounts of stuff were thrown into the ring.

A similar incident occurred at the women's Taekwando matches.  The Athens Olympic champion Luo Wei was leading all the way; in the semifinals, the organizers announced that Luo had "forfeited due to injury" and the PLA's Liu Rui advanced; in the final, the organizers announced that Liu Rui had "forfeited due to injury" and the local athlete Zhao Yan became champion without a fight.  The media used "forfeit and forfeit again" as the headline.

The same king happened with the men's 80kg event.  In the semifinals, Jiangsu athlete Wang Lin "forfeited due to injury."  In the final, Henan athlete Pan Dongdong "forfeited due to injury" and PLA's Li Liang won without a fight.

Similar "forfeitures due to injury" occurred in other events too.  The media are calling "forfeitures due to injury" was spreadking like an epidemic at the 10th National Games.

For the "fake" women's judo match, the coach Liu Yongfu was sent a "notice of criticism" by the organizers.  Yet, the most shocking and incomprehensible thing was that Liu Yongfu openly said that the match result was "determined beforehand."  But he noted elliptically: "I know that I am using myself to test the situation.  If this can turn the 'competitive spirit' for the better, I would be very happy to be the target for cleaning up the competition."

What did the phrase "cleaning up the competitive" mean?  Mainland media continued their investigation.  They wanted to know if the "fake fight" was the idea of the coach himself or something decided by upper-level people?  During the process, it was reported that according to the "rules" of the National Games, if the PLA athlete wins a gold medal, then the province of origin of that athlete also gets credited with a gold medal.  Therefore, some coaches were quite happy to let PLA opponents from the same province win.  "One match, two golds" and everybody is happy!

[Note: In the match between Su Fuming and Yan Sirui, both from Liaoning province, if Su wins, then Liaoning gets one gold and PLA gets one silver.  If Yan wins, then PLA gets one gold, Liaoning gets one old and one silver.  The system rewards provincial sports officials and coaches for winning medals at the national games.  Rationally, then, one gold plus one silver is better than one gold.  The solution has to be: change the system and treat the PLA like some super-province of its own.]

But what does this type of competitive rule that is "fairer than fair" have to do raising competitive standards, improving athlete quality?  how does this help to promote fair and just athletic spirit?  This is incredible!

In a fair competition, the best wins.  That should be the basic principle of all athletic events.  But supposedly, certain mainland athletic officials do not see it this way.  They believe that the competitions should "assist" certain marginal areas or athletically less developed provinces and cities by "tilting" the results somewhat; also, to "nurture" young athletes for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, some "old athletes" must therefore "create the conditions" and "make way" for the young athletes ... thus, we see the "encouraging sign" of the veterans falling by the wayside at the 10th National Games while new talents are emerging.

If there is any basis for this assertion, then the matter is not only absurd, but it is tragic and deplorable.  Sports in China went through an absurd age of "Friendship first, competition second" in which the "leaders" determined the results based upon "political needs."  Today, the reform has been going on for twenty yaers and the 2008 Beijing Olympics are near.  If these non-competitive factors continue to determine match results or even worsen, then no number of modern sports arenas or massive opening ceremonies will bring Chinese sports close to the word "modernization."