Whither sportsmanship?

0 CommentsPrint E-mail China Daily, October 26, 2009
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More probably than not, the most memorable positive aspect of the 11th National Games may prove to be its extravagant opening. The dazzling opening ceremony, which was way beyond public expectations for a domestic event, was comparable to last year's Beijing Olympics.

Actually, many rated it even higher. And, to some extent the hardware as well. We have seen venues and gears more than qualified for Olympic events.

Sadly, those might well be the only aspects where this edition of the National Games is comparable to the Olympic Games.

It would be unfair to many to say that all the competitive events that have taken place in the past few days are a wretched sequel to the opening spectacular. Yet for the health of the most important sports event in China, let us not look away from those ugly episodes.

Official denial of alleged behind-the-scenes arrangements in diving contests has not dispelled suspicions. Instead, similar rumors have surfaced again and created ripples well beyond the pool. Then there were the doping scandals from rowing and shooting.

And now, we have the men's basketball teams of Shanghai and Hubei vying to not score in order to win a favorable standing in their group. Even more outrageous, a Hubei player, in order to avoid an overtime, threw the ball into their own basket to put an end to the tie and hence the game.

No wonder such tactics triggered boos from the spectators. But those in the game did not care. Just as the coach of a team, which was suspected of manipulating a game, said earlier, they care more about self-interest than about spectator feelings.

Some, seeing it as a legitimate tactic in competitions, do take that for granted. But sports, the National Games in particular, is not all about winning a medal, or a desirable spot in the medals tally. Even for the pragmatic goal of screening candidates for the country's elite sports squads, fair play has to be an essential premise in the competitions. Not to mention that the National Games has on its shoulders, though largely neglected, an obligation to promote public involvement in sports.

The conspicuous absence of sportsmanship at the National Games is not only a blow to the event's credibility, but also threatens to disorient physical culture and sports in this country. Medal-fetishism is already eroding the moral fiber of Chinese sports. The National Games should not provide a new venue for it.

Four years ago, the 10th National Games left behind plenty of scandals. To date, the 11th has displayed an impressive potential to get messier. In order for the National Games to not become a sham and a shame, the sports authorities must act before the downward spiral becomes irreversible.

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