November 05, 2005

Not-So-Free Competition in China

Here's a story about the recently-completed China National Games that you probably won't read in the People's Daily; David Eimer at the Independent reported that

China has scored a sporting own goal, as its first rehearsal for Beijing's Olympic Games in 2008 descended into a farce of alleged match-rigging, bribery, unfair judging and doping scandals.

The full story, now available by subscription only (cost: 1 pound), tells the story of a judo match where the favourite, after receiving an apparent hand signal from her coach, immediately fell to the floor and lost the match.

Following predictable howls of protest from the spectators, CSGAS officials ordered a re-match, which Sun lost as well. However, her coach, Liu Yongfu, escaped with a warning despite admitting that the result had been determined beforehand. The same thing happened in the men's 80kg judo event, with the [Peoples Liberation Army] athlete winning while his opponent 'forfeited due to injury'.

Teams for the national games were organized by province, with the army represented by its own team. Most of the misconduct reported by Eimer is designed to tip the scales in favour of the PLA team.

And it didn't end at the judo venue:
Mass forfeits rendered the taekwondo and boxing competitions meaningless, while gymnasts complained that their results had been fixed before their events started. Three wrestling judges were banned for life after taking bribes, and some athletes did not attend medal ceremonies in protest at what they thought were more dubious judging decisions.

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