Xinhua Mistakenly Claims Istanbul as Host for 2020 Olympics

September 8, 2013 Updated: September 8, 2013

Chinese state media mistakenly reported Istanbul would host the 2020 Olympic Games, when it was Tokyo that ultimately won the bid. The error, which found its way into hundreds of thousands of newspapers, has drawn ridicule from editors and netizens.

The vice chief editor of the Changsha Evening News, which had put the mistaken news into print and distribution, posted on Weibo to criticize Xinhua, saying “the newspaper suffered a huge setback as a result of Xinhua’s mistake. Tens thousands of newspapers had to be recalled and reprinted. Xinhua needs to explain itself.”

However, Sina Weibo quickly removed the post. The vice chief editor followed with another comment, saying “Many netizens ask: Why has the post been deleted? … Maybe they want to save face, and don’t expect any so called ‘explanation.’ I can understand how much embarrassment the newspaper [must have been caused] … Responsibility is the first priority for a media workers. We have to be responsible to the facts, to our readers, and to ourselves. We can’t fool around with the readers just because we are big newspaper.”

Other netizens have echoed the editor’s sentiments: One user called Linping in Japan wrote: “It’s in the Japanese news now: Japan wins the 2020 Olympic game bid; Xinhua falsely announces in advance that Istanbul wins. Also heard the news that Changsha Evening News lost a lot of money from this. I went to Xinhua’s website, but didn’t see any apology. Mistakes aren’t the end of the world, but such a terrible impact at least warrants an apology.”

NJ-Peng comments “Isn’t this ‘speading rumors?’ Isn’t there a serious impact? They [the authorities] arrest [netizens] for ‘spreading rumors,’ regardless of whether or not you apologize. So will the police do anything? Can [the government] ensure equality before the law?”

Zhang Ming, Professor at People’s University of China’s Institute of International Relations, commented on Weibo, “When officials announce mistaken information, they should be held accountable unconditionally. When, however, the officials have no credibility and almost all information is false, then the system won’t question the officials’ lies and rumors.”

The blunder was not limited to print media. On Sept. 8, at 4 a.m. Beijing time, CCTV’s sports channel covered the 2020 Summer Olympics bid in a live broadcast. The program’s announcers said Tokyo was out in the first round and that Madrid and Istanbul would compete for the bid.

With research by Lu Chen.