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What’s with China’s National Games?

For those of you not familiar, China’s National Games is held every four years in the country since 1975, when the Cultural Revolution was coming to an end. This year the 11th National Games will be held in Shandong Province, from October 16th to 28th. Every four years, the best players in national teams go back to their hometowns to win glory for their provincial teams.

There are 46 teams participating this time: 4 municipality teams, 22 provincial teams, 5 autonomous region teams and the People’s Liberation Army team. The PLA is a big player every time. Also on the list are some sports association teams for certain industries such as aviation, forestry, communication, etc., who participate just for the sake of participating. The Games can usually tell you who will compete in the next Olympics. So if you’re thinking about the London 2012, better keep an eye on these new Chinese champions.

To most of the my compatriots, the Games seems to have already begun, as CCTV-5, China’s main sports channel, has been broadcasting its matches for at least a month, if not to count the qualifiers. Unlike other sports events in the rest of the World, I dare say that China’s National Games ranks the first in sending out medals before it officially kicks off. Up until now, still two days to the Opening Ceremony in Jinan, the capital city of Shandong, there’re 24 teams that won 238 gold medals already. Why so many? Partly because if a team member won a gold in the Beijing Games last summer, it counts for two golds for them in the National Game’s medal tally. If a player won in group sports in the Olympics, then it’s one gold for his or her team in the National Games. Another reason, according to the organizing committee, is that certain teams need to compete in some upcoming World champs, so they need to finish their matches quick.

harmonious

Slogan of China’s 11th National Games

The slogan of the Shandong Games is “Harmonious China, Everybody’s Games,” but it turned out to be somebody’s Games last weekend. As one of the judges disclosed that matches in the diving competitions were fixed by Zhou Jihong (周继红), head of China’s national diving team and deputy director of the National Aquatics Sport Administration Center. All the names the judge mentioned, including Olympic champions like He Chong (何冲) and Wu Minxia (吴敏霞), became gold medalists after October 12th when the finals finished (Check China Sports Today and China Hush‘s translation of the scandal).

The news quickly got onto the sports channels headlines of big Chinese portal sites like NetEase, Sohu and Sina yesterday. NetEase, my favorite Chinese news portal, even placed the story in its national news section, something not very harmonious to the Party’s propaganda chiefs. The story is titled “The Biggest Shady News Broke Out, All Golds Fixed in Diving Competitions of the National Games (全运会曝最大黑幕 跳水金牌被指全部内定)”, implying there’s other shady stuff going on as well.

To tell you the truth, I was not in the least surprised by the scandal. Because match-fixing is not something new in China. What’s new about this diving thing is that we’re finally talking about gold medals. But, what if it’s just qualifiers? Would anyone really pay attention? There’re fixed games in Chinese football and basketball but not a single player get caught and the associations remain silent all these years. Isn’t what happened in the diving finals just the way how sports have been played here? If so, what’s the big deal about that? Just keep enjoy the Games and pretend everything’s fine!

And did I mention age faking?

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Photo: The official website of the 11th National Games

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