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Beware of the financial black hole of the Olympic Games
Baizhi, Special to the Epoch Times
10/21/2004



Olympic China logo

The Chinese athletes’ performances at the Olympic Games in Athens were magnificent, generating 32 gold medals and making China second in the sports arena. However, behind the gold medals, the Chinese sports world reveals its abnormal development. We cannot help but ask, “What else can the gold medals bring to China besides honor?”

Gold medal economics

The cost of each gold medal won in Athens can be calculated by the opportunity cost idea, which considers how much each gold medal costs while sacrificing other developments or projects in society.

According to statistics, China has spent at least 20 billion yuan (about US$2.4 billion) on the General Administration of Sport for the Greek Olympic Games alone in the past four years. If the amount of money is divided by the number of total gold medals, then the average of every gold medal costs more than 600 million yuan (US $72.5 million). This does not include the cost of constructing the athletic facilities, related software or other anonymous costs.

At present, more than 1,300 athletes in China are salaried by the country. If we take the 20 billion and divide by 1,300, this gives us 15 million yuan. That is, raising an athlete in China costs an average of 15 million yuan (US $1.8 million) a year. If we were to also include the early years of training of the athlete, the cost of a gold medal will far exceed the 15 million yuan.

Training an athlete is expensive compared to other professionals. For example, training an “outstanding” fighter aircraft pilot in China costs about 1 million yuan (US $120,000) a year. For an elementary school teacher, it is about 200,000 yuan (US $24,000). Thus, how many elementary school teachers can a gold medal trade for? How many illiterate students can be educated?

With China spending an enormous amount of money, what is the rate of obtaining a gold medal?

Judging from the economic benefit of obtaining a medal, one gets a medal from 20.63 million people in China. It is much higher than India, where one gets a silver medal from 1.3 billion people. Along with this standard, one gets a medal from 4.6 million people in Taiwan. Taiwan is much more efficient than China and it does not invest as much as China in social cost.

Financial black hole for the expense of the Olympic Games

The citizens of China are spending 20 billion yuan to buy 32 gold medals (when only considering the budget of the General Administration of Sport). But was that all? The general public did not pay only for the gold medals, but also for the "inspection" and "sightseeing" teams consisting of Chinese officials. The so-called sightseeing teams not only watched the Olympic Games in Athens, but also visited the scenery of Greece; while the inspection teams more or less “inspected” the same things as the sightseeing teams.

It is an outcry, when considering that many of the members of the two teams do not speak English, so it’s mind-boggling how the inspection team can do its job. For the so-called “cheering” team, their role is to cheer for the athletes, yet they also went on tours and shopped. The teams were divided into different classes and all of their expenses were paid for by the Chinese government.

According to a report, one city in China sent four inspection teams several times to Greece before the Athens Olympic Games. They claimed that for China to “hold the Olympic Games well,” they have to go abroad and inspect every year. According to the report, one Chinese inspection team costs an average of 170,000 yuan (US $20,500) per person for four days.

So, how many such inspection teams went to Greece and how often? The official in charge of visa in Greece was not willing to reveal the number. However, it is certain that the money spent on the inspection teams is part of "the cost of the gold medal" that was not counted.

It is also worth considering how many officials spend money in the name of the Olympic Games. And the money is paid at the cost of the Beijing Olympic Games.

Spartan training is only for the gold medal

Although China has paid an enormous price to obtain so many medals, the glamour sports atmosphere does not pervade throughout the whole country and with its people; neither does it elevate the national image.

The reason is that in order to obtain gold medals, China’s sport system has been distorted for a long time.

It is said that the schools of sports in China enroll 5-year-old children. Then they send potential candidates to the sport centers of provinces or cities to receive a Spartan training. After that, they send only the best ones to train together in the national teams, and be raised by the government.

That is, the Chinese athletes are trained to become machines to generate gold medals under the policy of “Diplomacy of Saving Face.” At present, there are more than 200,000 athletes in China. Only 1,200 can enter the national team, which only produced 32 gold medals.

However, competitions are relentless. The athletes who are “eliminated” do not receive financial support from the government. They can only make a living on their own. Usually, when these specialized athletes leave the athletic fields, they are like eagles without wings. Most of them are in poor health condition due to past sports injuries, and become a burden on society.

It was reported that the Liaoning Hercules, Cai Li, who had won 40 national and 20 Asian championships, died in poverty and poor health after he retired.

Compared to the development of sports in America and Japan, China’s format is obviously distorted. The distribution of athletes in America and Japan is represented in the form of a pyramid. Athletes on the bottom of the pyramid are made up of sports teams in the schools all over the country and not the carefully chosen child athletes, as in China. At the middle of the pyramid, the amateur athletes are supported by enterprises in society. Only at the top of the pyramid are professional athletes.

However, the athletes in China are only a small number of the total population. This kind of sport development policy is like fostering competition tools such as “racing horses” or “fighting dogs.” Essentially, it violates the spirit of sports.

The idea of the international competition for gold medals in the Olympic Games comes from the Cold War. The Spartan training that China uses was learned from Eastern European countries and the former U.S.S.R. Although China is second for the number of gold medals won at this year’s Olympic Games, it does not earn much respect from the honor.

The cost of the Beijing Olympic Games is much more

As Beijing is to hold the Olympic Games in four years, and if the Chinese government follows the format of the Athens Olympic Games, how many billion yuan will the Chinese people keep losing?

The Olympic Games this time sets a precedent. In order to hold the Olympic Games, Greece had to spend US $6 billion for many reasons. Two of the main reasons were the waste in constructing the stadium and the expense for security.

One can only imagine how much expense for security the Beijing Olympic Games has to spend as the number of Chinese citizens’ appealing in Beijing is increasing. Also, the hatred of the people whose houses were demolished without their say and who were forced to move homes is accumulating. The Asian Cup soccer tournament required 50,000 police to guard along the road.

It is stated in the Economic Observer that the Beijing Olympic Games is making an effort to “lose weight,” or cut cost. The project of the National Stadium, nicknamed "Bird Nest," is suspended. The design of the National Swimming Center, “Water Cube,” is undergoing changes. It will possibly be torn down and rebuilt. The project of the Wukesong Culture and Sports Center is also being redesigned.

Has the Chinese government carefully planned the budget? If they had carefully estimated the budget, why would they “cut cost,” “reconstruct” or “redesign” halfway through? Aren’t they wasting money?

Until now, we have not counted the money spent by the Chinese officials under the name of helping the Olympic Games.

The Chinese people should not go on indulging themselves in the fond dream of “holding the Olympic Games,” but should instead think about how much money they will have to pay for this dream. Is it worth paying so much money? And where has the money gone?

It seems glorious to have 32 gold medals. However, it should not be the reason that people lose awareness, and result in an unprecedented, huge financial black hole that China is facing.

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