The National, Wednesday July 1st, 2012
By YUWEN WU
IN the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008, China won 51 gold medals and became world leader in the medals tally for the first time.
China’s participation in the 2012 London Olympics got off to an uncertain start.
China first competed at the Olympic Games in 1952 – at the summer games in Helsinki – only participating in one event.
At that time, the International Olympic Committee allowed both China and Taiwan to compete, although the latter withdrew in protest over China’s inclusion. The dispute over the political status of China meant it did not participate in the Olympics again until the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid.
Its first appearance at the summer Olympic Games after 1952 was at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, when it took 15 gold medals to finish fourth, largely in gymnastics, shooting and diving.
Their success was partly due to the fact that the Eastern bloc countries boycotted the games.
The first-ever gold medal for China, won by Xu Haifeng in the men’s pistol event at the Los Angeles Games, was hailed as the “great breakthrough”, ending China’s shame over its “sick man of Asia” image.
All the gold medallists became instant national heroes and were given all sorts of honours.
Since then, China has steadily climbed the medals tally, finally claiming top spot on home soil in the 2008 Beijing Olympics Games.
It defeated its fierce rivals, the United States and Russia, to second and third place respectively.
Apart from strong performances in traditional favourite categories such as table tennis and diving, China also won gold in more diverse sports including boxing and yachting.
The question on everybody’s mind for the London games is whether China can sustain its dominant position and continue occupying the top spot in 2012.
Not likely, if you believe
the predictions given
by Goldman Sachs.
According to them, China stripped of home advantage will come second in the medals table with 33 gold medals while the US will come first with 37 gold medals.
However, the Chinese official news agency Xinhua is more optimistic.
It predicts that London 2012 will see China and the US fighting for dominance – and, if all goes well, China will ultimately prevail with 37 gold medals.
Their prediction is based on two factors: First, China should do well in traditional categories of table tennis, badminton, diving, gymnastics, shooting and weightlifting – securing about 28 gold medals.
On top of this, there is credible potential to get another 10 golds in competitions such as swimming, athletics, judo, boxing and taekwondo. If this happens, Xinhua says, China will once again top the table.
BBC Chinese Olympics reporter Chen Zhuang – who has studied past performances and present form of the Chinese and US teams – sits somewhere in between these two predictions. He thinks that the US will somehow overcome China’s challenge and become dominant again, with 37 gold medals compared to 34 for China.
But in contrast to the games four years ago, when China faced immense pressure to perform at its best, the pressure seems to be lessened somewhat this time around.
For starters, China sent a smaller delegation, with some 200 fewer athletes than four years ago, suggesting a more pragmatic approach.
Secondly, the authorities seem to be playing down medal expectations, stressing the unpredictable nature of sport.
A closer look at media reports reveals, however, that the hunger for gold is just as fierce as before.
The head of the gymnastics delegation, Huang Yubin, told the team that there is just one goal in London – to win more gold medals. – BBC