There is less pressure on the country's athletes than beforeby Yuan Ren / August 19, 2016 / Leave a comment
Read more: Can we trust Olympic athletes?
China is not happy about its third place ranking in the Rio Olympics’ medal table. A look at the country’s media shows that the country is on edge—even experiencing angst—as a result of it. However, there is less nationalism than was witnessed during previous Olympic Games. In Beijing 2008 and London 2012 the Chinese public was obsessed with the tally of golds; “gold-losing athletes” were practically bereaved, and were berated for letting the country down. We obsessed about beating the United States—victorious uproars involving references to the “Century of Humiliation” erupted across a country hungry for glory and ascent.
This year, despite China being in third place in the overall and gold medals rankings, people are not that bothered. Part of the explanation for that is quite simple: the Rio games are more removed in many people’s minds when compared to London and Beijing (well, of course). China had been hungry to host the Olympic Games for years—I remember waking up in the 90s and being told that “we didn’t get the Olympics” by my mother. I knew little about the world but the Olympics, well, they were important. But Rio is a long way away, and the city is not as famous as London is.
Both the state and the public are less highly-strung now. In fact, news of an affair involving a big Chinese celebrity has received more attention than the Olympics this week. In this social media era, the younger generation is tuning into sports on their phones, and wang hong (online celebrity) culture has become a craze. Fu Yuanhui, a young swimmer whose exaggerated facial expressions received a lot of attention online (as did her comment that she under-performed in a race because she was on her period) is the latest wang hong: her every move—for the media—is gold.
The athletes are under far less pressure than they were in Beijing in 2008. Athletes can now say that they are “satisfied” even if they didn’t win, or in the case of the world champion swimmer Ning Zetao, even reach the finals. In 2008 Liu Xiang,…