Monday, March 24, 2008

Citius, Altius, Fortius

How are we supposed to trust the Chinese?
Li Yongbo, badminton coach for the Chinese National team, recently disclosed that he had 'fixed' the result of the Athens Olympic semifinal to enhance his country's chances of winning the gold in the final. I suppose this is not so rare in the highest level of sports these days, when the stakes for the winner (in case of the Olympics, the winning country) are sky-high. In F1 racing, the case of Rubens Barrichello being told to slow down in one of the races so that his Ferrari teammate Shumi could win is well known. In WWF wrestling, even a casual watcher would make out the 'fixing'. So Yongbo's admission is not really surprising. What is surprising is his plain-faced justification that 'this just shows the patriotism of his players and China should be proud of this'.
The motto of modern Olympics is Citius, Altius, Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger). One wonders whether this really applies to the athletes or to the host country. Hosting the Olympics obviously means big-time money for the country. Its a great money-spinner and everyone from the hotels to cabbies to prostitutes would end up making a fortune for themselves.
On one hand, China is desperately trying to project an image of a modern country capable of organizing world-class Olympics four months from now. On the other hand, the 'Free Tibet' movement is seeing this as an opportunity to get their voice across the world. One wonders then whether Li Yongbo has shot himself (and his country) in the foot by this ill-timed confession. His attempts to call it patriotism are laughable and actually pathetic. Spare a thought for the athlete, Zhou Mi, who had to intentionally 'lose' the semifinal after preparing for four long years. No wonder that she has migrated (read defected) to Hong Kong and is trying secure a berth for the Olympics from there. A similar incident has come to light when He Zhili was told to throw away the match in World Table Tennis championships in 1987. She ignored the 'official command' and went ahead to win the Gold. Shockingly, she was 'punished' by being kept out of the Olympic team in 1988 !!!
Perhaps, Yongbo has conveniently forgotten the informal motto of Olympics as conceived by Pierre de Coubertin, which says "what is important is not to win, but to take part !" You never know, he could even have put it forth as consolation for Zhou Mi.
What does China gain by doing this ? Become more Citius, Altius, Fortius in the emerging global markets, I suppose.