The true spirit of the Olympics and China’s approach

7 min read
Wu Minxia

The Olympics is the Celebration of the Human Spirit, not merely the pursuit of the gold medal

Conrado de Quiros in an article which appeared on May 11, 2011 at the Philippine Daily Inquirer said that:

“To this day, my biggest boxing hero is Muhammad Ali, and my biggest sports scene is him holding the Olympic torch with hands trembling violently from Parkinson’s disease being applauded fervently by the world. He was one who saw that there were far more worlds to conquer, there were far bigger challenges to meet, there were far grander fights to win. He did fight them, and he won.”

In my humble view, Muhammad Ali has shown the world what a true sportsman and a warrior should be. He did not simply pulverise his enemies on the court; he also fought for his political beliefs and stood on behalf of the marginalised in his society and the world! He is not merely a Champion on the ring, but also a conqueror of life!

During the 1992 Barcelona OlympicsDerek Redmond was favoured to medal in the 400 meter sprint. 150 meters into the race, Derek felt a searing brutal pain. In extreme agony, he fell into the ground with a clear case of torn hamstring. The whole world saw what he did! He never gave up, he stood up, in pain and misery, determined to finish the said race, persevered and carried it through to the applause of the crowd and admiration of the whole world!

It is my firm view that the great Ali and the intrepid Derek are the ultimate symbol and the perfect representation of what a true Olympiad athlete are! They’ve conquered their fears and they never gave up on their crusades and struggles in both sports and life!

As an independent observer, a sports enthusiast and a humanist, I cannot understand China’s seeming craziness and apparent madness that borders on dogmatism in pursuit of success, at all cost, at the expense of their athlete’s health and well-being.

Consider the case of Chinese diver Wu Minxia, according to the reports:

“Wu’s parents decided to withhold news of both the death of her grandparents and of her mother’s long battle with breast cancer until after she won the 3-meter springboard in London so as to not interfere with her diving career.”

As reported by Martin Rogers for Yahoo! Sports (Family kept grandparents’ deaths secret from Chinese diver until she won gold medal):

“The story of Wu’s family secret has generated huge discussion in China, where the pursuit of success has been chased by the government-backed sports national sports program with unshakeable zeal over the past two decades.

“Now there seems to be a backlash against the win-at-all-costs mentality after the revelations about Wu followed fierce criticism from a national newspaper when a 17-year-old weightlifter failed to medal.

“In China, athletes are often taken away from their families at a young age and placed in specialist training schools where they practice for hours every day. Wu began training daily at a diving camp at the age of 6. By the time she was 16, she had left home to be installed in a government aquatic sports institute.

“She has become one of her sport’s all-time greats, but her father says the success has come at a high price to her personal life.”

Wu Minxia’s father, Wu Yuming told the Shanghai Morning Post:

“We accepted a long time ago that she doesn’t belong entirely to us. I don’t even dare to think about things like enjoying family happiness.”

What kind of mentality is this? What kind of society is this? Where did this ugly side, this perversity of the human relations come from? I do not know and I doubt if I will one day fully understand.

Does it mean that in this society, the gold medal is more important than the family, that glory is more important than humanity?

This is inhuman, dehumanization of the highest and worst kind! What a shame!

Another case that I wish to highlight is that of Lu Ying, another Chinese diver.

According to the report of the NDJ World:

“23-year old swimmer Lu Ying dared to openly go against the Chinese government when she was training is Australia, saying that China’s ‘Spartan training methods’ are what produce superior young athletes.

“Other athletes who spend their entire youth in such training camps complained that once their sporting career was over they were unable to find work because the only thing they know is their sport.

“A similar training method was used during the former Soviet Union era which had similar boot camps where athletes were forced to train hours on end for the better of their country.”

This analysis is in conformity with the report of the AFP highlighting Lu Ying’s criticism of the Chinese training regimes:

“Chinese swimmer Lu Ying, fresh from winning a silver medal in the women’s 100m butterfly, spoke out after the race against the Chinese training system, a rare display of criticism from one of the country’s athletes.”

In her own words:

In China were used to study, study and train, train and then rest. I think our ways of thinking has many limits. In Australia I’ve been invited to barbeques with my team-mates — that would never happen in China.”

She further added that in China, athletes have no time for fun but only to train and focus on the competition.

I admire this young woman for her courage. For me, she also won the gold medal. She won it in my view by virtue of her honesty, tenacity and character based on fortitude. I just hope that she will not suffer any ‘untoward incident’ or be subjected to any punishment by the authoritarians of her country’s sport institution on account of her candour.

On this juncture I would like to register my own criticism and condemnation of China’s inhuman and dreaded training method.

I denounced their ‘Spartan training methods’ which are allegedly the reason why China’s athletes are superb at a very young age.

Yes, it true, but what is the price that those athletes have to pay?

Due to China’s madness in pursuit of capturing the medals and total success, they don’t care about the welfare and the dignity of their athletes. They don’t give a damn to their athlete’s well-being and humanity. Why? All in the name of the gold, for the country’s glory; yet sad but true, at the expense and detriment of their athlete’s personality and humanity!

I renounced strongly China’s Boot camps that train children, barely out of diapers, which is subjecting them to grueling, borderline torturous, training methods “that by Western standards would be labelled child abuse and make their parents’ skin crawl with disgust”.

Is that it? No! “Day in and day out, the children are forced to train for hours on end and subject themselves to gruelling routines that would make grown men cry. But neither tears nor heartache offer any relieve from the relentless training exercises controlled by stern coaches who only double the load when ‘signs of weakness’ appear”.

This is totally disgusting and barbaric, to say the least!

It completely appears that China has overwhelmingly bastardised the original meaning and the true purpose of the Olympics.

Yet, be that as it may, still I would like to emphasise that the purpose of the said sports event is primary to foster good relations, among nations, forge greater cooperation and create more understanding between all the member states of the international community.

The Olympic Games is the Celebration of the Human Spirit, not merely the pursuit of the gold medal — that is my central message!

Beyond the medals and the victory, what is also at stake at the said event is to highlight the indomitability of the human will, the tenacity of the spirit of the various athletes, their ways of conquering their limitations and fears, to emphasise the courage of all the players to go out and participate in the spirit of universal and international brotherhood through sports, to applaud the winners and achievers, to again and again to commend the braveness of the heart and unshakable value of the human spirit!

The Olympic Games, as envisioned by the ancient Greeks, is not being held, simply to boast and/or to brag, who among the nation-participants have the largest/biggest medals harvested or captured; rather it is a celebration of manifesting the nobility of the boldness of man, his resilience, his passion and controlled fury, his willingness to go on regardless and irrespective of the result.That is the primordial point!

It is a celebration of the courage, dignity and tenacity of man under pressure, in pain — both in defeat and in triumph!!!

As the time-honoured principle of sportsmanship kept on reminding us:

It doesn’t matter whether you win or lose the game; what matters most in the end is how you played the game!

That, my friends is what we called universally as the virtue of sportsmanship and the irrepressible testament to the indomitability of the human will!Written by:
Jose Mario Dolor De Vega
Selangor, Malaysia

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