The first thing to annoy me about the Beijing Olympics is China’s evident cheating in girls’ gymnasitcs, where they’ve flouted the minimum age standard by making false passports for a couple of children. If Chinese gymnasts He Kexin and Jiang Yuyuan are 15 1/2 years old, I’ll buy them each a Cadillac. Seeing them in Hi-Def makes me doubt these little tykes are a day over 14, actually. But nobody can make any sort of official protest until the games are over and they’re safely out of the country, for fear of judging reprisals or worse.
One thing that’s not in doubt is China’s history of cheating by lying about the ages of their female gymnasts:
Yang Yun of China won individual and team bronze medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and later said in an interview on state-run television that she had been 14 at the time of those Games. A Hunan Province sports administration report also said later that she had been 14 when she competed in Sydney.
Bela Karolyi, who coached Retton of the United States and Nadia Comaneci of Romania to their Olympic gold-medal triumphs, said the problem of under-age gymnasts had been around for years. Age is an easy thing to alter in an authoritarian country, he said, because the government has such strict control of official paperwork.
It’s sad that the government of China abuses these poor children. And desperate, because they’re not fooling anybody.
These Olympics were supposed to be China’s bid to show itself to the world in a favorable light, but so far we have an all-robot opening ceremony, a murdered tourist, a bizarre recruitment program that pumps professional athletes into junk sports like air rifle, girls’ weight-lifting and synchronized diving, and blatant cheating in the marquee events. China comes of as a deranged lunatic, obsessed with winning and lacking in both grace and the capacity for self-analysis; a Bridezilla.
In short, China is looking at a public relations nightmare. But that might be good in the long run, if it prompts some serious self-analysis.