The Olympics should be a time of global goodwill, not political polemics, but the New York Times (NYT) attempted to exploit it in order to disparage China in one of their latest articles titled “China’s Olympic Goal: The Most Golds, at Any Cost”. Hannah Beech penned a piece where she comes off as jealous of China’s Olympic successes but thinly disguises everything under the insincere veneer of concern for its athletes. She notes how China dominates six sports – table tennis, shooting, diving, badminton, gymnastics, and weight lifting – and that “more than two-thirds of China’s golds have come courtesy of female champions”.
She theorizes that this is because “Beijing has focused on less prominent sports that are underfunded in the West or sports that offer multiple Olympic gold medals.” In other words, Beech is implying that Chinese Olympic champions might not deserve their gold medals because the West could probably beat them if only it invested more money into certain programs. Later on in her article, she dramatizes the lifelong Olympic training experience to imply that those participating in it might not be doing so of their own will after either being coerced by the government or enticed with promises of basic necessities that some poorer athletes might lack.
Nevertheless, Chinese Olympians persevere amid what the NYT’s author misleadingly presents as unnecessarily difficult conditions because “their duty is to nation, not self”, as supposedly evidenced by the simple fact that some athletes train in facilities where their national flag is proudly draped along the wall as is normal in most countries. The innuendo is that Western athletes are doing everything for themselves, which by implied contrast is apparently a good thing in her mind due to the US’ mostly individualistic culture, but she’s oblivious to how selfish that might seem to many from the Global South’s mostly collective cultures.
The subtext is that some of China’s athletes might not have even trained for the Olympic Games in the first place if it wasn’t for immense pressure from the government and civil society. She strongly suggests as much when theorizing that Chairman Mao Zedong’s vision of restoring Chinese greatness might be the reason why the government takes the Olympic Games so seriously. Since Chairman Mao is demonized in American culture, Beech is basically blowing a dog whistle by making it seem like China’s participation in the Olympic Games and the allegedly unnecessary hardship that its athletes endure is part of a purely ideological communist plot.
She goes even further by bringing up past doping scandals to imply that maybe more of China’s Olympic champions might be cheating, which already angered American readers might interpret as suggesting that such schemes could be occurring before their very eyes in Tokyo. Beech’s punchline then comes quickly when she feigns sympathy for a Chinese athlete before lamenting how that person “did not address the mental toll of what she has done, day after day, since she was a little girl”, “unlike Simone Biles or Naomi Osaka, high-profile Olympians who have spoken of the emotional strain of so much pressure”.
Everything immediately becomes clear upon reaching that point. Beech is trying to celebrate American’s victimhood culture of idolizing those athletes who’ve either pulled out of the games or failed to win gold medals because of what they’ve previously explained were their mental health challenges. Those individuals deserve sympathy on a personal level, but the US’ globally influential mainstream media mustn’t pressure the world to accept them as the new standard of Olympic champions. Regardless of the reasons and however one feels about it, they failed to do what they set out to accomplish in Tokyo, which is win gold medals.
Many countries in the world don’t embrace the US’ victimhood culture of unquestionably celebrating those who present themselves as victims whenever they fail to meet their goals. Some people veritably are victims, but others truly are not. Biles and Osaka are victims of mental health issues, but this doesn’t make them Olympic heroes by virtue of the fact that the latter are only those who win gold medals. They’re strong women to come so far despite their personal problems, and perhaps some of their compatriots sincerely see them as heroes, but many across the world do not. They lost at the Olympics, which isn’t anything special, but the norm.
By contrast, China and many other countries celebrate victory, not victimhood. There’s nothing wrong with whatever culture a person or nation embraces, they’re just different. There should be respect for everyone’s decision to embrace whatever it is that they want. That being the case, Beech shouldn’t have disparaged China’s victory culture just to distract Americans from how disappointed many are with some of their top athletes’ failures to win the gold. She implied that Chinese athletes are pressured by the state, live terrible lives, and that their sacrifices aren’t appreciated, all of which is false and only meant to make Americans feel better.
Source: One World