Olympics-China Media Watch: Reflecting on success

Chen Ruolin’s win in the women’s 10-meter platform dive today brought China’s gold medal count to 46, and dominated the online headlines. With the closing ceremony just three days away, news outlets are trumpeting the unprecedented victories of the Chinese athletes, now leading their closest competitor, the United States, by 18 gold medals. They are also reflecting on what the success means.

Perhaps in an effort to temper expressions of nationalism after the Games, official mouthpiece Xinhua News Agency cheers on the achievements of the Chinese team but points out that they had a home-team advantage and that, when considered per capita, the country’s gold medal intake is slightly less of a rout.

A front-page commentary in Nanfang Zhoumo (Southern Weekend) wonders what Chinese people will take from these Games. It suggests a cosmopolitan point-of-view:

From the historical perspective, the most important thing to take away is not just the gold medal rank, not just revealing China’s image, and not just raising the nation’s spirits. It will have something to do with Phelps winning eight gold medals, and with the brilliant performances of the Argentine and Nigerian soccer teams. … It is an affirmation of the spirit of sports: individual worth, fair competition, and peaceful fraternity.

Financial news magazine Caijing takes a different tack. In a blog, a journalist spends an evening in a courtyard in one of Beijing’s winding old alleyways with a few migrant workers from outside the city. They are the ones who make the party possible; a security guard working endless hours, a cook at a college campus, and a waiter at a restaurant for foreigners. But none of them have been following the Games. They don’t have time.

The only change in the life of my worker friends was that for several months, they were supporting the Olympic preparations, and when the competition started, they finally stopped. For a while, they felt nervous about what the Games would be. But when the big day came, life unexpectedly returned to its original state.

I asked, how many gold medals does China have? “Ten or so,” they said.