The Chinese hurdler comes strong out of the blocks, falls at the first hurdle and grabs his right Achilles tendon. After hopping into the adjoining tunnel, he then reappears and hops the length of the course, stopping to kiss the last hurdle.
Chinese Olympic hurdler Liu Xiang’s dramatic race in the 2012 London Games may have been a scripted affair, according to an article in the Nanjing-based Oriental Guardian. The report has garnered massive attention and criticism on Chinese social media sites.
The front-page article on Thursday reported that state-run mouthpiece CCTV already knew the severity of Liu’s injury before he was about to race in the 110-meter hurdle preliminaries.
The report raised questions about why China’s Olympic authorities allowed him to race even though they knew he was hurt, while CCTV drew the brunt of the criticism from users on Chinese social media sites. They said the broadcaster’s coverage was manipulative.
On Aug. 22, a forum on the Olympic Games coverage was held in Beijing. At the forum, the supervisor for Olympic commentators, Sha Tong, admitted that the CCTV commentator Yang Jian had received news of Liu’s injury before the race began.
Yang created four different commentaries, depending on whether Liu failed or if he actually succeeded in the race. When Liu went down, Yang did not sound surprised because he used one of the drafts he had prepared beforehand, according to the report.
The report noted that when Liu crashed to the ground, Yang gave an emotional and well-versed commentary, as though he had already anticipated Liu’s fall. Some netizens had expressed their suspicion that something might be amiss, before the details were revealed at the forum Wednesday.
CCTV’s actions drew widespread criticism from Chinese Internet users Thursday, with many saying that they felt misled by the whole thing, accusing the broadcaster of playing with their emotions.
One user on China’s microblogging service Sina Weibo expressed his displeasure: “They think it’s so easy to manipulate the entire country, don’t they?” His message was reposted more than 23,000 times and received more than 10,000 comments at the time of writing.
Others sympathized with Liu: “They could have just told the public about Liu’s injury. What a barbaric and backward outlook the media has. Liu Xiang himself did not do anything wrong.”
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Liu shocked the Chinese audience when he withdrew from his preliminary heat due to an injury to his right Achilles tendon. The injury in London was in the same place.
An inside source told the Guardian that China’s sports officials urged Liu to “strive for the gold medal.” While extensively training for the London Olympics, Liu aggravated his old injury and had to seek treatment in Germany, suggesting that at this year’s games, Liu might have been forced to race for the sake of the network.
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