One third of the Olympiad has passed. China is in the lead, in terms of gold medals and in terms of unbelievable spirit. The Russian team is in the middle in all parameters. Both these facts are natural and logic.
No one has been round-eyed while the USSR was dominating in the Olympian winter and summer arenas for 40 years. So same way we should treat the Chinese breakthrough. Their success is based on the furious training system and fantastic spirit, i.e. on what was the strong point of the soviet sportsmen.
Chinese sports boarding schools where champions are grown, this is a very impressive sight even compared to Japanese schools of sumo. The coaches-pedagogues shout at their charges and cane for any fault or inaccuracy done. The negligent trainees make a bow in response and repeat the exercise till their palms get bloody and the element is learnt perfectly. Same all-year practice sessions (without canes, but not without manhandling) were used in preparation of our former champions Latynina, Broomel, Saneev, Salnikov…
In that soviet-like manner the rice and bicycle lovers have learnt not only to swim and run, but also to box, fence, lift weights, row and even to play volleyball and basketball… All that was assisted by best foreign specialists including Russian ones.
Yes, those lads and girls with dispassionate faces cannot boast of much artistry yet. But does a diver really need to have a smile on her face when she penetrates water like a needle? Well, the name of “red machine” is better to be applied to Chinese athletes now, not Russian ones.
Two gold medals after 5 days are no depressing figure. In 1960 we got to the top place on the pedestal for the first time even later. We are not behind our usual schedule: it is known that our victories are to come nearer to the end of the event. However, one may notice the lack of self-confidence by our sportsmen. Well, they try and endure, but many of our silver and bronze medal holders were far from taking the gold. And some of those whom we counted on did not even get to finals. Look at how Natalia Paderina, Marina Shainova, Dobroskok and Galperin were happy about their non-gold medals. They were joyful as they realized that had been their limit. That’s what makes one sad.
Even American journalists, anticipating the Chinese offensive in all fronts, had begun to convince the whole world that winning in the unofficial team scoring was not their end in itself and that generally that was a mere pretext for politicians for being puffed up. Allegedly, they were only concerned about Michael Phelps gaining 8 gold medals and their athletic sprinters defeating the rest of the world.
Well, it’s easy to understand Americans. When a country has a wonder-swimmer and the most successful Olympian in the history, capable of bringing one fourth of all the US golden awards, one may afford preparing the ground for justification of one’s second place. And Russia has no Phelps. Russia has lots of bosses who established the target of 80 medals. Like it or not, the sportsmen have to struggle for it.
Dmitry Kosarev, historian, writer:
“Chinese sportsmen are people with karate traditions. That means above all an ability to control one’s organism, to concentrate and relax instantly. No matter who you are, European or Chinese, you leave a karate school being a different person. Unbelievable self-discipline and non-smiling look that we see on the faces of the Chinese sportsmen is just part of tradition.
And our reaction to that is just an element of the cultural shock. We forget we are dealing with other people. A Chinese may be joyful, drunk, merry and open among his/her people. I have seen that recently in a Beijing disco, shortly before the opening ceremony. And in the public a Chinese person gets closed. Now they are playing part of the host. They are taught from their childhood that one must behave in the public. Whatever they had inside of them going on (and Chinese people are very emotional and sensitive) they wear the mask of impenetrable and polite impartiality. It’s very difficult to change them. All that Mao had managed to do with his failing Cultural Revolution was that the nation began a bit quicker.
China is not a country; this is a domain equal to continent. Its inhabitants have known for many centuries that they are better, cleverer, more civilized and have more ancient culture, and this is why they are holding the place in the world they really deserve. This is why they are tolerant, indulgent and indifferent.