Someone's going to get ripped off in China. Someone American. It could be an American athlete or it could be an American team, but it's going to be someone, and I fear that someone will be wearing red, white and blue.
Can't you just feel it? That country is ruthless, and from top to bottom -- from its suffocating government to its cowed people -- it's the antithesis of our country. We don't understand China. China doesn't like us. Historically we have been the world's leading superpower. They might want to be us. They damn sure want to beat us.
|Maybe our Olympic gymnasts shouldn't count on getting breaks in Beijing. (US Presswire)|
See where I'm going with this? It's the perfect storm for an Olympic rip-off, so perfect that I'm making like Babe Ruth and I'm calling the shot. I'm predicting a rip-off to rival the one the U.S. men's basketball team suffered in Munich in 1972, or boxer Roy Jones Jr. suffered in 1988 in South Korea. It's going to happen, and it's going to be bad, so bad it'll be a shock -- only how can it be a shock if I'm telling you about it ahead of time?
This is a dark viewpoint, but I have my reasons. For one thing, the Chinese government cannot be trusted. That's a scary regime over there, with no institutional integrity. Tibet, Tiananmen Square. One child per family. Millions of baby girls aborted because families want a son. That's a scary place, China. Competitive to the point of crazy. Warped.
Why mention those societal issues in a story about sports? Because in China, they're the same thing. Societal issues, human rights, sports ... all of it is operated the same way, because all of it is controlled by the same government. Look what happens when an NBA team drafts a Chinese player. Look at the hoops -- political hoops -- that had to be jumped through to get Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian over here.
And that's nothing.
Four years ago in Greece, the United States beat China in the gold medal count 36-32 and China is determined not to let that happen in Beijing. Its government has poured millions into something it calls Project 119, the number 119 referring to the gold medals (now up to 122, actually) available in sports like track and field, swimming and canoeing.
China now has 2,000 full-time rowers on the national payroll.
Rowers. Full time. Two thousand.
Meanwhile, more than 300,000 Chinese citizens have volunteered for cheerleading training, spending hours learning how to yell, I kid you not, things like, "Higher! Faster!"
You think Americans are competitive? You have no idea. The Chinese leave nothing to chance. U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas is warning families of U.S. athletes, among other visitors, that China has equipped major hotel chains with equipment that will spy on Internet usage in each room.
It's another world over there. The first visiting journalists to the Olympic Main Press Center in Beijing already have discovered that the Chinese -- despite assurances otherwise -- were censoring certain websites. Not porn sites, either. Lots of sites you and I would consider harmless, like the BBC's Chinese-language site. And Wikipedia references to the massacre at Tiananmen Square. And the website of Amnesty International, whose lead story a few days ago reported that China routinely executes criminals found guilty of crimes far below that of murder, making it "the world's top executioner ... around 68 offenses punishable are punishable by death in China."
You really think China will have any problem killing some foreign athlete's Olympic dream?
That's one cold place, China. Promising young athletes are separated from their families and put into sports factories -- there are more than 3,000 government-run athletic schools -- where they are surrounded by hundreds of thousands of other kids riding the same conveyor belt. And an evil conveyor belt it is; former Chinese athletes say they were fed steroids without their knowledge.
|ca_matt: I'm an American citizen, and I love America! I can also tell you that most Americans would benefit greatly from spending some time abroad, you can learn a lot when you walk a mile in someone else's shoes. I would bet Doyel has never spent more then a week outside of the States AND he has never been to China.|
|Gregg Doyel: You know what I could learn from those shoes? I could learn how to eat dog. I could learn how to have my Internet censored by the government. I could learn how to live in fear that my government might some day object to the way I go about my personal business, and I could end up in jail for no good (legal) reason. You're right, Matt. Why don't I hurry up and move to China? Sounds like a blast.|
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That's incredible, but that's China. Over there, athletes are like Kleenex. They are used, discarded and replaced. According to the China Sports Daily, China has 300,000 retired athletes, and more than 80 percent are unemployed, injured or living in poverty. Makes you glad you're not one of those 2,000 full-time rowers, right?
Now then, understand something. I get that Americans aren't perfect. And certainly we're exceptionally imperfect when it comes to athletic integrity. From Barry Bonds to Floyd Landis to Marion Jones and more, we've contributed our share -- more than our share -- of sports cheats. But as a country, we mean well. Our government brought down BALCO. It provided some of the muscle behind baseball's Mitchell Report and it put Roger Clemens on the witness stand. We cheat, but our government tries to stop us.
In China, sports and government are the same thing, run by the same people. Birth certificates are doctored. Gymnasts are said to be older than they are, and basketball players are said to be younger. When Chinese swimmers are caught doping, they are caught en masse, more than 40 in recent years, suggesting something sinisterly corporate is going on there. When Chinese runners have a breakthrough, they have a breakthrough of epic proportions, like at the 1993 World Championships when Chinese women swept the 1,500, 3,000 and 10,000 meters. No Chinese woman had ever won any of those events before. And none has won since. That's fishier than Sammy Sosa's historic homer barrage.
And stinky things happen at international events -- horrific rip-offs that always seem to benefit the home country, like South Korea's Park Si-Hun winning the gold medal in Seoul after Roy Jones had beaten him to a pulp. Or Italian officials falsifying a measurement to give Italian long jumper Giovanni Evangelisti the bronze over American Larry Myricks at the world track championships in Rome in 1987. Or German cyclist Toni Merkens being given the Olympic gold in Berlin in 1936 even after officials ruled he had deliberately crashed into silver medalist Arie van Vliet of Holland.
Bad things happen to visitors, and we're next. And this is why I'm convinced -- this comment from former Chinese swimmer Fan Hong, who described China's attitude toward the gold medal count in a recent interview with National Public Radio:
"Competitive sport," Hong said, "is war without gunfire."
And there will be casualties.