The Olympics are in full swing, and at the moment the U.S. and China are deadlocked in the medal count. Normally, I'm not a huge Olympics' guy, but the burgeoning rivalry plus the other storylines (Michael Phelps, The Redeem Team, Spain's photo taking skills) has me intrigued. For now I'm putting those other stories on the backburner and focusing on the rivalry angle.
This isn't your typical friendly rivalry in sports we see today. There's some real teeth to this one. I think the typical American fan thought we would steamroll the world in terms of medal count because that's what we are used to. We have won the last three Summer Olympic competitions.
There's no way China or any other country is better than us at sports, right? Now it's looking like this might go right down to the wire, and I got to believe it's vexing the American fan. But is China playing fairly?
I'm no expert, so I'm not going to run through the whole gymnast controversy for you. Check that out here. Just look at the picture above. A couple of those girls have to be under 16, right?
If the U.S., God forbid, loses the count at the Olympics, it's going to be tough to swallow for a lot of people, including me. This country devotes so much time and energy into sports; it would be embarrassing if we can't win, especially against the Chinese.
If for some reason Britain or another ally could become an athletic power, I think Americans would welcome the challenge of a friendly rival, and even possibly be OK losing an Olympics. I mean, the typical sports fan won't freak out that we can't win the archery and curling gold medals, and other like events. But the Chinese are not our allies.
This goes back to the Cold War and our intense rivalry with communist Russia. Russia has since failed and if you don't know, the new communist power is, wait for it, CHINA. I don't know whether it goes back to World War II or some other event, but the U.S. has, as long as I can remember, took a stand against similar communist governments.
It might just be that communism spits in the face of the tenets of democracy. Anyways, this rivalry exists on so many levels that it has become the leading story in my mind by a large margin.
I don't want to go as far yet to say China is evil, but this is a country that limits the number of kids you can have, persecutes Christians (which is still the biggest religion in the U.S.), and commits numerous other human rights violations. Doesn't sound too much like a friend, does it?
In a perfect world we would separate sports and politics, but in reality we cannot do that. Sports, especially the Olympics, have become a platform for world powers to flex their muscle.
China tries to get as much out of their athletes as humanly possible. If you don't believe me, ask Yao Ming. It's sad but true. This is the world we live in today, where a thing meant to be fun and competitive like sports becomes a political player.
Hopefully, things don't escalate and this rivalry just remains a rivalry.