16 August 2008

Project 119

This is the Chinese government's program to boost their medal count and score their propaganda coup. However, the surprises that they are foisting on the sporting world are raising eyebrows. Where did these unknowns come from?

The latest is the world record Gold (and Silver) in the women's 200m butterfly. Liu Zige, 19, was unknown in the international swimming community. She has obviously not had a problem passing the drug tests. And swimming is not a head-to-head sport where you need international competition (see USA boxing this olympics). You just need enough seasoning to not get psyched out by a big meet. You train against yourself, and against the clock.

The Chinese are describing this as a type of 'rags to riches' story, but with a Chinese flavor (Szechuan?). Instead of the individual rising to the top, it's the benevolent state that finds her
from the northeastern province of Liaoning and brought to Shanghai to enter China's sports mill. Within a year, she was a promising member of the Shanghai swim team.
But there is a cost to these athletes. One that they may not choose themselves. Separation from family, friends, and enormous pressure on them. I like our system.

Oh, and more reality bending from the opening ceremonies. Wonder if they are frantically revising their closing gala plans?