China's Authoritarian Gold Rush Misses Joy of Sports

Beijing may well pass US atop medals table, but citizens' share will be minimal
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 6, 2008 10:10 AM CDT
Members of the Chinese soccer team salute the crowd after their World Cup qualifier 2008 at Sydney's Olympic Stadium in Sydney, Sunday, June. 22, 2008. China won the match 1-0.    (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)
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(Newser) – Beijing’s plan to win the most golds at the Olympics seems likely to pay off in a battle pitting “Chinese authoritarianism versus American liberty,” Matthew Forney writes in the New York Times. Unlike the US, though, China’s citizenry gets little chance to play organized sports, with the government going to great lengths to find athletes who can be turned to gold even in the most obscure arenas.

“Beijing’s leaders didn’t create a world where Olympic success means more than a Nobel Prize or good lending libraries. But they inherited it,” Forney writes. “If they can displace America’s athletes at the top of the gold medal charts and China’s people accept a system in which only the most promising athletes get to enjoy organized sports, then the rest of the world has few grounds for complaint.”