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Wednesday, 1 August 2012

China's medal dominance should be a red flag to foreigners

Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen qualifies
fastest in a heat.
Australians are sensing that something has changed with this Olympics. It's still early in the games but this early part of the competition is when the swimming medal races are held. And the traditional face-off between the US and Australia has fallen by the wayside; in it's place is a battle between the US and China.

China is leading the medal count, with the US in second place. But look further down the rankings. Russia is placed ninth. But North Korea is placed fifth. Under Communism, the Soviet Union was always a top-ranking competitor. Under democracy it has slipped in the rankings down to a more realistic slot, one which more credibly reflects its domestic priorities. For Communist China and Communist North Korea, winning medals remains the first priority. Glory is everything. Face must be kept.

These regimes are using Olympic medals to justify oppressive, totalitarian government. For China's leadership, the medal count may satisfy the population's appetite for victory but the people are still unable to access the internet freely, cannot vote, and have no choice in how they are governed. Managing a democracy is harder than training the human show-ponies needed to bolster the internal standing of the ruling Party.

Doping was one thing that Jacques Rogge talked about in his opening address. But the vast amounts of capital that China's Party is throwing at training athletes in order to facilitate their hold on power is equal to illegal substances in its ultimate effect.

Chinese athletes winning medals are doing so because they are nurtured and supported financially by the regime. They are like some sort of esoteric collection of catamites, the Party's harem of trained perfection. There is something wrong with this picture. It is an indicator of economic excess channelled toward achieving national greatness above all else, even self-determination. If this is the aim of the government, then we must conclude that foreigners in fact do have to worry about China. China's Olympic success is actually a red flag to nations overseas: to win at all costs.

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