Olympics-China Media Watch: Does Xinhua know gymnast’s real age?

NBC coverage of the women’s gymnastics team competition made incessant mention of the controversy over the Chinese athletes’ ages. Are they really 16, or are they underage? And what does that say about the awful and efficient “machine” that pumps out China’s Olympians? NBC announcers made sure that American viewers pondered the matter as the gold medal went to the Chinese team.

It hardly seems fair to look at how the Chinese media deals with the gymnasts’ ages, given the go-team patriotism of many in the U.S. media. Except that scanning the official press yields an apparent admission that one of the athletes, He Kexin, is indeed underage. China Digital Times and The Associated Press point out that an official Xinhua News Agency report in November said the gymnast was 13. (They grow up so quickly, don’t they?) An official told AP that Xinhua had simply made a mistake.

Chinese news outlets don’t seem to have anything to say about this newest revelation, though Xinhua’s November report was still posted online when I checked today. 

A few Chinese bloggers, like this one, picked up on it, focusing more than anything on the fact that the American media is convinced there’s a scandal.

In other news, Beijing-based English-language blog Danwei today has translated an article in Caijing financial news magazine on the Olympics volunteers, who are trained to watch out for bombs, drugs, and journalists.