Thursday, August 14, 2008

Shame on you, China

Ah, the summer Olympics. A time to celebrate the best of the best of the world's athletes. A time to appreciate another country's rich heritage and customs.

And, this year, a time to deny a talented little girl the opportunity to be seen by millions of people around the world, all because she wasn't deemed "cute" enough. Here is an excerpt from an article that further explains what I mean.

Courtesy of:

BEIJING - One little girl had the looks. The other had the voice.

So in a last-minute move demanded by one of China’s highest officials, the two were put together for the Olympic opening ceremony, with one lip-syncing “Ode to the Motherland” over the other’s singing.

The real singer, 7-year-old Yang Peiyi, with her chubby face and crooked baby teeth, wasn’t good looking enough for the ceremony, its chief music director told state-owned Beijing Radio.

So the pigtailed Lin Miaoke, a veteran of television ads, mouthed the words with a pixie smile for a stadium of 91,000 and a worldwide TV audience. “I felt so beautiful in my red dress,” the tiny 9-year-old told the China Daily newspaper.

Peiyi later told China Central Television that just having her voice used was an honor.

It was the latest example of the lengths the image-obsessed China is taking to create a perfect Summer Games.

Then there is the controversy surrounding the Chinese women's gymnastic team. Yeah, the newly crowned gold medalists. Apparently, half the team is underage. Here's another excerpt.

Courtesy of:,8599,1832312,00.html?imw=Y

They twirled and tumbled and soared, their lean, lithe bodies slicing the air like tiny blades. In the end, China's women's gymnastics team prevailed in the team final, capturing the gold, with the Americans taking silver and the Romanians rounding it out with a bronze. But even as the Chinese team's doll-like faces broke out into giant smiles, a question mark hung over the mats at the National Indoor Stadium. Last month, when China finally named its Olympic squad, legendary gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi complained that some of China's gymnasts were "obviously kids... and you're telling the world they are 16? What arrogance!" Were three of the six Chinese women on the stand actually too young to be competing?

Under Olympic regulations, female gymnasts must turn 16 years old during the year of competition. According to their passports, which determine Olympic eligibility, He Kexin, Jiang Yuyuan and Yang Yilin are all 16. But Chinese online records and local newspaper articles have presented different information, raising questions about these three gymnasts' true ages. A 2006 biography from the local sports bureau where He was registered gave her date of birth as January 1, 1994, which would make her 14. A story earlier this year in the China Daily, the country's largest English-language newspaper, also reported that she is 14 years old. Another local-level competition roll had the date of birth of Jiang, who is only 32 kg (70.5 lbs.), as October 1, 1993, making her also 14. And from 2004-2006, the biographical data for Yang on the State General Administration of Sport's website listed her date of birth as August 26, 1993, one year later than what Beijing Olympic records show. Responding to a New York Times article that reported on questions about He and Jiang's ages, Zhang Hongliang, a Chinese gymnastics official, suggested that perhaps local sports authorities had listed their ages incorrectly, but insisted that their passports were fault-free. "I'm sure the information is correct," Zhang said. Officials from the International Gymnastics Federation said they would accept the passport information, until convincing evidence to the contrary is presented.

Age-fixing in Chinese sport has been in the news before. In sports where limber, prepubescent bodies can outmaneuver more mature athletes, kids can be designated as older than they are. Yang Yun, a Chinese gymnast who was listed as 16 when she won double bronzes at Sydney, later went on Chinese television and said she had been 14 when she competed.

So, even though there have been some amazing moments, I think it's a shame that the Olympics be marred by such controversy. Can't we all just get along? And not cheat? Perhaps not.


Kenna said...

China gymnasts are douche bags.

Erin said...

Yeah, we agree. M & I had many conversations about this...him being the China expert. His response, "yeah, it doesn't surprise me." lol