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One gold equals 1,000 silvers

Chinese Olympic rowing teamNevermind that gold and silver are often separated by a hundreth of a second. Chinese statistics reflect adherence to this depressing credo. In the 2004 Summer Olympics, the USA reigned with 102 medals. China was a distant third with 63. Gold told a different story. China was second with 32, four behind the United States. “Silver? It means nothing here; you might as well finish last,” says former Soviet coach Igor Grinko. “Coaches like me come, help them win gold medals, or we are fired.”

As China prepares its debut as Olympic host, it has ramped up its effort to win gold. The strategy is to focus on sports that offer many opportunities for gold, like rowing. Rowing. Crew. Such a long Chinese tradition, right? No, of course not. But the sport offers 14 separate events, 14 chances for gold, unlike basketball or volleyball — sports that have a rightful place in Chinese culture — that offer only 1 or 2.

In China, very young children are evaluated for potential athletic prowess and shipped off to distant locales to train, train, train. Seven days a week for years, separated from family and community, they are cogs in the Chinese wheel. They head out every morning, shoulders slumped, exhausted, unmotivated, to play a sport that is meaningless to them. Great financial gain at one end, prison (for doping) at the other end, they work toward a predestined fate.

I am sure that the Chinese will fare well in Beijing. They have to. But the glory will be reserved for the athletes that defy fate. Just as computers will never outshine humanity’s best and brightest, so the Chinese machine will fall short. The 1980 Miracle on Ice — the US hockey team that defeated Cold War Russia to go on to win the gold — was not about raw talent, or national financial support, or intense training regimens. The Miracle on Ice was about the human spirit, about love of sport, reverence for tradition, synergy above all else.

Passion defies logic. Love, dedication and athletic brilliance will always trump mechanization. Even when it wears a human skin.

I can not wait to see the US kick China’s autocratic ass on its home turf.

7 thoughts on “One gold equals 1,000 silvers

  1. Yo! Marie: Love the blog–this one and the nutritious pizza for the dorm. we met at the Wendy Woo[Hoo] concert for Urban Peak . Checking in to say LOVE your voice. Love Not my Tribe–now on my favorites. I know my wife, Linda Case, is [I’m pretty sure] Eric’s dad’s doctor and knows him thru that. So, it’s a small world [but I wouldn’t want to paint it].

    Interesting POV on the Olympics in China; you should run with that. Hello to C Sting and Kirk. Keep up the good, subversive work.

    Big Frank

  2. I keep thinking about (it was drilled into my brain while repairing a computer 4 years ago, a Cable TeeVee fluff piece related to the Olympics) about the 1972 games in Munich.

    Where a last second call went against the American team, but most importantly For the Soviet team in Basketball. Those who follow basketball and even those of us who would rather not, realize that this happens all the time in a game.

    And, it is a GAME

    The U.S. team refused their silver medals and still do.

    That was somehow “patriotism” instead of my personal call “poor sportsmanship” and “sore losers”, according to the two-hour blurb about the incident.

    And somehow overshadows the Hostage Event at the Olympic Village.

    Guess the Chinese and “our” government never did learn any better.

    Ah, well…

  3. ‘I can not wait to see the US kick China’s autocratic ass on its home turf.’

    Your comment is so totally ass backwards, Marie, that it kind of takes my breath away. Where in the world do you get such a messed up Right Wing political viewpoint from?

    The US is the country with the ‘autocratic ass’, and a country that has been a nuclear threat to China for way over half a century. Your cheerleading for the US is rather sad.

  4. I’m talking about the treatment of athletes. No mention of nukes anywhere. Read the post, Tony. It would help you throw punches that actually land.

  5. Meanwhile it looks like your recuperation is going well. Cool.

    Of course, the Olympics started long ago as a competition between Military types, see who could throw a spear or discus or shot the furthest, all very much geared toward “our warriors could easily take your warriors” type of demonstrations.

  6. I’ve played sports, with my parents encouragement, all my life. However, in my late teens I temporarily lost interest and preferred music. I went on to get an college education and came back to sports when I joined the army after encountering trouble in the job market.

    When I was in the army, stationed in Germany, I was one of the best football players in my scout platoon. Positioned in the defensive secondary, I could cover the best receivers and prevent them from catching any more than a couple passes per game. All this in spite of being in my thirties while most of the other players were still in their twenties.

    If fact, during my enlistment I never scored below a 260 on the army’s Physical Training (PT) test and once scored as high as 293, just 7 points short of a so-called “perfect score”. However, I was sent to Iraq in 2003 and left the army in 2004 suffering from injuries incured while being a scout. Today I am unable to perform the type of physical tasks I once did with relative ease. Fortunately, unlike everyone who has suffering from injuries as a result of military service, I received disability status in 2005 and currently get SOME compensation.

    I still like music and sing from time to time at some of the local open mics. It’s just too bad I didn’t realize how lucrative a career in sports could have been. I could have brought victory and honor to my city and nation. I believe I would be better off financially – even if I had injuries worse than those I obtained from my military service – as many professional (and amateur) atheletes do.

    Am I addicted to competition? It sure seems that way. Is that bad? I’ll let someone else decide. I just wish I’d have figured it out sooner so I could have better profited from it.
    Well at least my nation has honor, if not victory…..?

  7. My recuperation does seem to be slowly coming along, Jonah. Thanks to all that have shown concern for me when I was down in Nicaragua not feeling too well. It was appreciated.

    As to the Olympics and China…. I wonder if all the American and British liberals mouthing off against China will be boycotting the Olympic Games come 2012 to be held in London? I wonder if they will be talking it up against the ‘autocratic’ not so great Britain? I wonder if they will be demanding a`boycott of the games against Britain for its role in pushing genocide in Iraq, Palestine, and elsewhere? What’s your guess, Marie?

    As to the so-called ‘Miracle on Ice’ in 1980 when the US team defeated Russia, this ‘victory’ was much more about the corporate professional leagues and the thuggery pushed in the sport of ice hockey by the US and Canada that continues to poison the sport worldwide till this very day. It had little to do with ‘the human spirit, about love of sport, reverence for tradition, synergy above all else’. It had to do with US corporate cash turning a game into something akin to the thuggery and brutality of boxing.

    Your comments about the US hockey team of 1980 are like the comments against China here, and show more jingoism than anything else, Marie, IMO. Free China! Keep US hands off the Chinese people.

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