By LIM SUE GOAN
Translated by DOMINIC LOH
Sin Chew Daily
A major focus of the London Olympics will be whether China can once again overtake the United States in total number of gold medals to become a true champion in sports.
Thanks to the home ground advantage, China clinched 51 golds against US' 36 in the 2008 Games in Beijing despite the fact that US won a total of 110 medals, more than China's 100.
If China can beat the US again in London this time, it should serve as a convincing proof that China has emerged not merely a reckoned force in economy, but also in physical prowess and mental resolve.
Owing to biological differences, Asians have traditionally trailed the Caucasians and Africans in sporting events. Asians are strong in skill and versatility-demanding events such as archery, gymnastics, badminton and table tennis while the Caucasians reign supreme in swimming and canoeing. The outstanding performance of Chinese athletes in these events has illustrated the fact that such a gap has been narrowed.
Judging from the performance of athletes over the first few days of competition in London, China has good chances to rule once again.
But even this is not going to make China a more respected nation because the country's exceptional achievements in sports and economy have not been accompanied by advancements of similar proportions in cultural spirit.
China remains very much a non-democratic state that generally plays down on the universal value of human rights. The international community marvelled in awe at the way the opening ceremony of the 2008 Games was presented, but short of the overwhelmingly positive feedback the world offered to the London show which embodied the creative spirit and the British humour.
USSR, East Germany, Romania and other former communist states mobilised their national resources to groom gold medallists, resulting in brilliant shows by the Iron Curtain countries in Olympic games Nevertheless, the failure to withstand the torrents of time subsequently saw the total disintegration of these authoritarian states
The selection mechanism of China's athletes has been geared towards winning of medals. Their victory in sporting events has not been rooted in the elevation of sports culture and spirit of the overall Chinese society.
The fairness, justness and openness in sports must be extended to the political and social systems of the Chinese people to really win the respect of the world.
While the Olympic Games has set as its objectives unity, peace, friendship and progress with the hope fair competition and enhanced mutual understanding will bring our world a step closer to a more harmonious and better place for all, our world has not actually become a better place despite the 30 modern Olympiads we have witnessed.
The Arab Spring has not ushered in democracy in the Middle East but has plunged the region in perpetual commotion. The Iranian nuclear crisis could erupt any time as chaos continues to rule in many African states.
As if that is not enough, the global economy is heading south with the European debt crisis intensifying by the week and the America "on the edge of a financial cliff." Meanwhile, erratic climatic changes have sent food prices skyrocketing; the poor will get poorer, expediting yet another round of social unrest.
Even in the supposedly sacred Olympic fields the scourge of racism and scepticism continues to run wild. Triple jumper Voula Papachristou was dropped from the Greek delegation after her racist tweet. South Korean swimmer Park Tae-hwan was initially disqualified for a false start during the 400m freestyle qualifying heat and the Koreans suspected it was the work of the Chinese referee.
The unrelenting spirit of all athletes constitutes the essence of sports, a force that will propel the human race ahead.