Asian Games in Guangzhou Gets China Gold, but Sport Neglected

By Li Zhen, Epoch Times
December 8, 2010 12:38 pm Last Updated: October 1, 2015 6:17 pm

Young Chinese acrobats resting after training. In China enormous emphasis and funding are being given to elite sports, while neglecting sporting activities for the masses. The overall health of Chinese youth is in decline with the average fitness and health-related expenditure for a Beijing resident is only 73 yuan, ($11 US).  (Getty Images )
Young Chinese acrobats resting after training. In China enormous emphasis and funding are being given to elite sports, while neglecting sporting activities for the masses. The overall health of Chinese youth is in decline with the average fitness and health-related expenditure for a Beijing resident is only 73 yuan, ($11 US). (Getty Images )
China’s scooping up nearly 200 gold medals in the recent Asian Games in Guangzhou brought into focus a longstanding contradiction in the country: enormous emphasis and funding being given to elite sports, while sporting activities for the masses are nowhere on the agenda.

The issue was highlighted by a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) media agency on Nov. 20, seven days before the Games concluded. Outlook Weekly, which is published by Xinhua, said that behind the gold medals, efforts to have the public take up sports have languished.

Added to that, the overall health of Chinese youth has declined. Comparing data from years 2005 and 1995, the average student’s flexibility, muscular strength, endurance, and lung capacity all went down. Agility and strength have been on the decline for 10 years, endurance for 20. This information was told to China Youth Daily in March by Jiang Xiaoyu, vice chair of the Education, Science, Culture and Public Health Committee in the Communist Party’s main political advisory body.

The 16th Asian Games cost at least 120 billion yuan (approximately US$18 billion), according to officials. This price tag included the Asian Para Games, and a good portion of it was said to have gone into infrastructure for the city. China took 199 gold medals; in second place was South Korea with 76.

Aside from questions of general population fitness, Chinese have sometimes found the overt political emphasis placed on winning gold medals distasteful.

After China took 19 gold on the first day of the Asian Games, Yang Ming, an outspoken reporter from Xinhua, published an article arguing that for a long time officials have considered sport as no more than a way to win gold medals and display national strength. “But this is actually distorting the true spirit and essence of sportsmanship,” he wrote. His article sparked heated debate and was circulated widely around the Chinese Internet.

Facing his critics in an interview with Huashang Weekly on Nov. 20, Yang Ming said he didn’t oppose athletes competing for gold, but “oppose the policy of seeking only gold medals. On the one hand we are a top gold medal-ranking nation in competitive sports; on the other hand, our national health index is dropping each year. Why are we developing sports to begin with? Isn't this worthy of our reflection?”

Hong Kong Open Magazine's executive director Cai Yongmei says that the CCP’s national sports system, which often places athletes at very young ages in Spartan-like conditions and drills them full time, and where reports of coercion are not uncommon, has already deviated from the spirit of sportsmanship. “You can see that sport is not developing among the general public,” she said “The general public really does not have access to sports facilities; but why does China always perform so well at international competitions? They use national resources and tax payer money to systematically produce these results.”

For the communist authorities, “sports is treated as a form of propaganda,” she says. ”All communist countries have very good national sports. They use this to show that their system is ‘superior.’ In reality, it is a display of their ideology.”

Internet users on electronic bulletin boards also expressed discontent at their tax dollars being used for the purpose. “This kind of national athletic system using taxpayer money should be abolished!” one user wrote.

Read the original Chinese article. http://epochtimes.com/gb/10/11/29/n3098422.htm