Free of gilt, sports get a breath of fresh air
Updated: 2015-01-30 07:54
By Fang Zhou(China Daily USA)
After worshipping gold medals for decades, China has finally taken a step to separate sports from utilitarianism and accord priority to sportsmanship. A General Administration of Sports notice posted on the website of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection of the Communist Party of China, the top discipline body, on Monday said medal winners at the Olympics and Asian Games will no longer be listed for contribution awards and there will be no publication of provincial gold medal rankings at national sport events.
The sports administration has also said it would review the harmful effects of the distorted performance outlook based on gold medal worship, and stop focusing on matters that have been belittling the value of sportsmanship.
This is a welcome development, for it signifies that substantial efforts will now be made to restore the respect and glory of sports and athletes, which they so rightly deserve. The administration's announcement came only days after the top anti-corruption watchdog said the crackdown on corrupt sports officials was one of the reasons for the good performance of the Chinese men's soccer team in the 2015 AFC Asian Cup in Australia. For the uninitiated, the Chinese men's team reached the quarterfinals of the Asian Cup, registering its best performance in 11 years.
The gold medal obsession of sports officials did earn China a huge number of medals at the Olympics and other world sports events, but it didn't help develop a sports culture in the country. True, the large number of gold medals Chinese athletes won at international meets boosted Chinese people's national pride. But still, their gilt-edged performances have been widely attributed to the mobilization of the "entire nation's resources".
The under-the-table deals and backstage arrangements for the selection of national teams have many times given sports a bad name, raising questions on the consequences of China's rigid sport system. Many sports scandals in recent years, especially those related to soccer organizations and the men's soccer team, have mounted pressure on the top sports administration to reform its bureaucratic management.
Because of the launch of the top disciplinary watchdog's high-profile investigation against the administration officials in November, many people now expect all the corrupt elements to be banished from China's sports system, and arrangements like seeking approval for and bidding to stage sports events to be abolished. People also expect to see the end of under-the-table deals to select athletes and referees for national sports events.
Many blame the rampant corruption in China's sports organizations on the gold medal worship and the distorted outlook on performance. Of course, the best athlete deserves to get the gold medal. But that does not mean the very essence of taking part in sports events is to win it, because such a distorted notion about sports could compel local sports administrations to employ unfair means to enable their athletes to win the top medal.
The gold medal is not the be all and end all of sports. The Olympic motto may be "faster, higher, stronger", but more than winning medals the urge and spirit to take part in sports events are important.
The author is a senior writer with China Daily.
(China Daily USA 01/30/2015 page16)
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