On 24th August 2008, China, the hosts of 2008 Beijing Olympics, topped the medals tally with an astonishing count of 100 medals. This was the first time in the history of Olympic Games, that the Americans had been upstaged as the numero uno sporting nation. The Chinese contingent won a staggering 51 gold medals, 15 more than the US athletes.
Since the inception of Olympics in 1896, USA has always been amongst the top-3 medal winning contingents, and finishing at the top on numerous occasions. At times, the US contingent has won almost double the gold medals, than the 2nd placed team. But this was the trend till China started participating in Olympic Games.
Returning to 1984 Olympics, after their first participation in 1952, China has slowly clawed its way to the top of the medals tally. From winning 5 medals at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, China won 51 Gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Also, for the first time since 1980 Moscow Olympics, which the USA had boycotted, a country had upstaged USA, in the number of gold medals won.
While USA’s tally of gold medals has been the same (36) at the last three Olympics, China has continuously bettered its performance, almost doubling its gold medal count (28) from the 2000 Sydney Olympics. This is a result of the no-nonsense approach to sports, adopted by the Chinese establishment. Hiring the best foreign coaches, grooming local coaches and spotting talent at a young age have been regular initiatives of the China Olympic Committee (COC). The athletes and training staff are given the best training facilities and regular exposure at international events, to develop and test their skills.
Over the past decade, China has not only continued its supremacy on sports it has dominated traditionally; but has also ventured into sports which were once considered to be a US & European bastion. China has made the disciplines like Gymnastics, Diving and Shooting, their own, which were once dominated by Russia. They walked away with 23 Gold medals, from only these 3 categories, a record at the 2008 Olympic Games. At the same time, Chinese athletes have returned with gold medals in disciplines like Weightlifting and Shooting, which were till now, Eastern European strongholds.
China has fielded its teams in Baseball & Basketball, which has been an assured US gold medal till now. The performance of Chinese baseball team in the debut outing at 2008 Games had nothing much to write about. Also, the Basketball team has not made any major breakthrough till now. Despite all this, it seems China will surely win a medal in these sports, in the Games to come. Many Chinese players are seen plying-their-trade, in the NBA and American baseball league, so as to improve their game by playing with the best. In fact, many Chinese players have become a top draw with the American baseball and basketball teams.
Another interesting development has been the Chinese foray into somewhat neglected sports at the Olympic Games. For example, women’s tennis doubles event has rarely seen the top tennis stars participating in it. China, very smartly fielded two teams in this discipline in 2004 Athens Olympics, and returned with a Gold medal.
It does not stop here. China has been building and sending strong teams in other disciplines like Swimming, Cycling, Archery and Hockey. In fact, China returned with medals in all these disciplines at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Add to all this, the Chinese dominance in sports like Badminton, Table Tennis, Judo and Taekwondo continues. It all points to the systematic efforts taken by China to establish itself as a sports super power, outdoing the USA.
Compare this with the tally of 1 Gold medal and 2 Bronze medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
India!!! Are we listening?